After the success of Ritu’s post last week, I am glad to have another strong Work In Progress Wednesday to share with you all today. One thing I’ve always found difficult is making sure my characters behave on the right schedule, that they’re not skipping from one place to another… The following post has some advice that will help for that! Along with some advice on how to edit it when it’s all said and done. I’m very thankful to welcome April Munday, titular writer of www.aprilmunday.wordpress.com, who has taken some time out of her busy editing schedule to share a post with us all below.
I’m twenty months into my work in progress and the end is in sight. The first words of the Soldiers of Fortune series were written in January 2016. It’s a four book series with each book recounting the tale of one of four brothers who fought at the battle of Poitiers in 1356. The battle is a turning point for each of them and they each have to work out how to live with what happened on that day.
One of the problems with writing a series is making sure that events which are supposed to be taking place at the same time do take place at the same time. The first two books are more or less contemporaneous, with important events taking place on Easter Sunday 1357 a few miles apart. This meant that the weather had to be similar in both places and that someone who was near death on Easter Sunday in one book could not be in good health a week later in the other book. In the past I’ve written calendars for characters to make sure that there is enough time for the events of the story to take place and that the protagonist isn’t in Calais when someone is talking to her in Winchester. With the Soldiers of Fortune books I had a timeline, which helped me to identify that some of my characters were not the right age to do what I wanted them to do. This was easy enough to correct, but discovering that that two of my characters were doing something in Bordeaux after they had left on a ship to England took a bit more thought.
Something I did differently with the last two books in the series was to edit backwards. This was a tip I read in a blog post. I think the person whose idea it was literally edited from the last paragraph back to the first, but I went from the last scene to the one before and so on until I reached the beginning. This feels very strange at first, but it does help you to notice assumptions that you’ve made or where the text is a bit bare (or too fulsome).
Reading something out of order makes you focus on whether it makes sense in itself. If it doesn’t make sense out of context, it probably doesn’t make sense when the scenes are read in the correct order. This process can also help you to pick up continuity errors. When reading through the typescript linearly you might not notice that the villain whose nicotine-stained fingers are described on page 30 declares himself a non-smoker on page 40. I discovered in the final book in the series that I wasn’t sure how many soldiers were guarding a house in Oxfordshire. There were three different groups of them and some of them died, so the number did not add up by the end.
The final edit I do before the book goes to my proof reader includes reading the book aloud. Doing this in one sitting is best, but it can be a slow process. I like to change the size of the page on the screen to 110% or 120%. Reading larger text seems to make it easier to spot errors, possibly because you’re looking at what’s written in a different way. This is by no means infallible, however. The second book in the series was returned to me by the proof reader with about 25 errors highlighted. Some of these errors were minor, such as leaving out speech marks or a full stop, but one was where I’d repeated a word in a sentence, which I only permit in dialogue.
Reading aloud also helps me to spot ‘purple prose’ or dialogue that doesn’t work. If a sentence or a paragraph sounds poor when I read it aloud, it’s going to look poor to a reader when they’re reading it in their head.
Thanks to Shaun for allowing me to share these tips and I hope you find them useful.
I can be found at www.aprilmunday.wordpress.com, https://twitter.com/AprilMunday and https://www.facebook.com/AprilMundayAuthor/. My novels are available from Author.to/AM. My most recent novel, Beloved Besieged, is available at myBook.to/BeBe.