The Red Pen is mightier …
I wrote in a blog post early in 2015 of my intention to revisit all my novels. As any writer will know, it is not a decision taken lightly. Once underway, the task becomes an obsession. Lifestyle is affected, and so too are social media habits. Other writing projects are sidelined, but the focus must remain on the primary issue – improvement of the target title.
Since my intentions were stated last year, I’ve revisited four of my titles. Two have had a few hundred superfluous words removed, and two titles have been amended with subtle touches – and have now been categorised as ‘Romance’ rather than ‘Thriller’.
I accepted at the outset my greatest challenge would be to work on my top-selling title – Beyond The Law: Formation. (Originally titled, Beyond The Law)
Beyond The Law: Formation
I believe a brief history will demonstrate how important this project was for me.
May 2008 – I introduced Phil McKenzie (Hawk) as an action character in a poem. I followed this rhyme with another and built a series of 30 poems about Hawk.
Nov 2011 – I used my ‘Hawk’ poetry series to write a novel in a month in the NaNoWriMo. The story consisted of 56,000 words.
Oct 2013 – Following 18 months of writing and rewriting, I published Beyond The Law. The tale had expanded to a staggering 154,000 words.
(At time of writing this post, it continues to be my top-selling title.)
Aug 2016 – The revised version is now available, and is now supported by Beyond The Law: Retribution, the second tale in the trilogy.
Why affect the length if the book sells?
I’ve since written more books, and as all writers find, I am improving my appreciation of what is good, and what is better. I regularly check out the ‘do and don’t’ articles, and I recognised a few issues from my past writing.
Over-description (flowery language), passive dialogue, procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and a few other odd words which are best left in the brain, not on the page.
Where did I find my list of procrastinators, idlers, etc.?
At this point I’d like to mention, and say a public thank you to Kelly Hartigan. I haven’t used Kelly’s professional editing services yet, but I am a keen follower of her wisdom. To find out about those groups of words I’ve mentioned, and to gain an insight into Kelly’s valuable tips and suggestions please visit:
Kelly Hartigan – website
How have I amended Beyond The Law: Formation?
1. I removed the unnecessary words as detailed above (procrastinators, idlers, and so on).
2. I tightened the dialogue, and many dialogue tags, without altering what was said.
3. I located and amended passive voice, to active voice.
4. I located and amended a few cases of ‘head-hopping’ (changed Point of View). Okay, in this case there weren’t many, because I tend to hold a POV within a scene. If I want to change the POV, I change scene, usually by using a centrally-positioned asterisk, instead of a line-break.
5. I referred to all reviews, made notes of points raised, and made minor adjustments where necessary.
How long did it take to perform this edit?
Six weeks. Apart from a couple of breaks of three or four days, it was constant, hard work.
What is the end result?
I trimmed 28,500 words from the manuscript, which began with 154,500 words.
The story is now 125,000 words, supported by 1,500 words used for back pages information on other titles.
I believe I’ve improved a story I already liked.
Will I go on to perform the same ritual with my other titles?
Yes, all of them, and I’ll take each one on a slimming exercise. It’s not such a daunting task, because I’ve dealt with my longest book, so the others will feel less arduous.
Why should I bother?
1 – I’d like my readership to get the best deal possible, and ‘the best deal’ isn’t only about the price, it’s also about the story, and the quality of writing.
2 – My intention is to produce my titles in paperback, but to ensure I’m able to use the same profile and book dimensions I must keep my word count down. In my eBooks for example, I give a blurb for each of my titles at the back of every book. These will be reduced to a list of titles by genre.
A side effect of my efforts has been the relegation of my other projects. I will now work to complete three of the four other titles, but my next collection of short stories will be postponed until at least December 2016/January 2017.
If you haven’t read Beyond The Law: Formation, the revised edition is available.
As always, thank you for reading my thoughts, theories and ramblings. All feedback is welcome.