My second book, a novel called "Alaska Deadly", is with the publisher and I’ll soon get editor emails, suggesting manuscript corrections about grammar, spelling, chapter breaks, etc. These are usually minimal, although my first book was missing commas and the editor recommended shorter paragraphs. But with my latest book “penned” on the newest Microsoft Word, commas pop up where needed and sometimes the ones I put in are marked for deletion. But there’re no exact rules on paragraphs, most grammarians saying size is based on personal taste.
The process for this book should go faster than the one two years ago because last time I had lots of footnotes to keep straight. I’ve found writing a novel easier than a history, not just reduced research, but also less time at the computer since I’m not having to stay attentive to factual detail. Even so, a work of the imagination requires logical consistency and needs a sense of verisimilitude.
The novel took a little more than a year to finish, including numerous rewrites. On the final revision I cut the manuscript by 4.5%, reducing the number of pages by eleven. I did this for two reasons.
First, some reviews criticized my first book as repetitious and replete with too many details. As a writer my natural bent is to be overly descriptive, especially at the beginning when first putting thoughts on paper. Going through rewrites, I pare words down, but still find more can be cut.
On this book, most of the word cutting was done in the final revision because of a last-minute decision. Before submitting the work for publication, I had a professional edit the first five pages and he suggested trimming it more. He explained its best to be a minimalist at the beginning of the book, keeping the prose lean to maintain momentum and keep the reader turning pages. I saw the wisdom of his advice.
I agree cutting unnecessary words is best, but at some point, you begin to lose meaning. Sometimes, after several rounds of clearing verbiage, I change it back the way it was. This is my signal that efforts to trim have peaked. If done right, the reader will be immersed in the book, unaware of surroundings, passing smoothly through words with the meaning clear. This requires balance.
I treat this blog the same, reading it many times, clearing the clutter, trimming phrases, trying for precise meaning with the least number of words. This is the way I think whether writing a letter, doing this blog, or starting my next book. As a writer this must be a habit anytime pen is put to paper. Its not something that comes naturally but must be learned through hard work and practice. Like anything, it gets better with repetition. This is not to discount innate ability, but regardless of talent, we tend to become more proficient at things we practice.
As I move into the mechanics of publishing my second book, I also think about writing the next one. I’m leaning toward a sequel to “Alaska Deadly”; in fact, I intentionally left a question mark at the novel’s end. The characters in that book still have life and I’ve been thinking of how to get them back in action. I am pleased with the first novel and think I might even improve next time. I plan to be well into the writing by the time the second book sees print. The first page will be the hardest.