Sunday 13 January 2019

Editing: Ripping up the Quilt

Editing is not my favourite part of the writing process. This time around, I am doing some major edits, thanks to help from different people I met at the Surrey International Writer's Conference. 

I began with Anne Perry's workshop, fittingly titled "Edits that hurt. . . and really help. It was an excellent talk on the editing process which included the following book-altering tips:
1. Sometimes you can cut an unnecessary character or blend two characters into one to make a more interesting character.
2. When you are making a change, just rewrite the whole scene. Don't try to cut and paste. (I have not always followed this advice, but I hear Anne Perry telling me this whenever I am attempting to cut and paste).

Next, I pitched my novel idea to Dr. Genevieve Gagne-Hawes. I'll take a minute to elaborate: Attendees register for Pitch sessions ahead of time. They must arrive 5 minutes early to the ballroom.
The front of the room is filled with chairs and tables full of writers at the front. Along both sides of the room are the agents. The writers are sent to sit in chairs in the middle of the room where they wait to be called. When it is your turn, you line up in front of the agent to alert them they have one minute left with the writer who is seated before them. It is an interested opportunity to observe other writer's pitching. It is recommended that you do not bring your entire manuscript, but rather a one page synopsis or query letter. I observed many writers with their entire manuscript. I think it is just too tempting.

I pitched my novel to Genevieve who listened with an attentive smile. Then she asked me questions which directly pointed out my novel's biggest flaw. There's no hiding the problem. But, this gave me the chance to pick her brain for suggestions. My main take-away was to focus on the love story.

Next, I had a Blue Pencil Session with writer Owen Laukkanen. This is the chance to share your
writing with a published author and to discuss their thoughts about your work. Owen writes adventure thrillers and after researching his books, I figured he would find my book boring. I even attempted starting a murder mystery novel to entertain him, but I abandoned the pursuit before I got very far. I presented my three pages to Owen with an inward cringe. To my surprise, he did not fall asleep and instead encouraged my efforts, helped me tighten my dialogue and asked questions which inspired my to take the timeline of my story from two years and two major locations into one year and location.

I've had my work cut out for me since then. Merging characters and years is no small feat. Early into my efforts, I took on the view that my work now is like ripping apart a quilt, keeping the good parts and carefully stitching the quilt back together in a new and exciting pattern. Unlike the written feedback from the professional editor which stymied my work, meeting face to face with Genevieve and Owen has inspired me. I think it was the opportunity to ask questions and get to know them a little. I am grateful to be creating my tale again, one stitch at a time.

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