I’ve been working my way through the 31-page memo that my editor sent to me. Some manuscript issues are larger than others, of course, and those take precedence. But I found it easier to work chapter by chapter first, so I looked at the editor’s chapter notes, took care of what I could within each chapter, and now I’m going back and making large passes at the depth of the writing, the importance of dialogue, the use of repetition, etc.
One of the other issues I’m tackling is something that’s really giving me a run for my money. Here’s how the editor phrased it:
At the line level, work to alleviate a pile-up of similar declarative phrasing when describing the narrator’s actions. This example from Chapter 36 is illustrative. Here, we have a slight pile-up of consecutive “I” lines”: I found myself, I had to wait, I had arrived, I stood, adjusted, I heard a click:
The next morning, after an uncomplicated breakfast of toast and fruit with the kids and my phone call with Jackie, I found myself back at the door of the Crooked Tree Library. I had to wait a moment, because I had arrived a minute early. I stood on the wide wooden porch, relishing the slight breeze that made its way past my ears. I adjusted the strap of my shoulder bag and checked for messages one more time. Then, I heard a click and the door opened.
This involves a bit of rewriting to illustrate the point . . .
Anytime I hear the term “rewriting,” I think, how much time is that gonna take? (Am I the only one?) But of course, good things come to those who wait or those who work hard. And since the editor went ahead and gave me some great suggestions with respect to that paragraph, I’m now at the point where I’m going through each page, examining what my sentence structure looks like for all the sentences on that page, making sure that those declarative sentences aren’t forming mountains. Good times, people, good times.
But, the editor is right. The “pile-up,” as she calls it, amounts to a pretty boring read. And if I can manage to “give the character a clear motivation,” and keep that motivation in my mind as I’m changing the phrasing, I’ll be “thinking in terms of story action” as opposed to simply providing descriptive details to a static character. And we all know that readers don’t like static characters.
Here’s to moving on and moving forward!