Editing and re-editing

Is everyone on vacation? It’s been a rough week, as far as blog readers go. I can see how many readers there are! I’m watching you and I’m not feeling the joy right now. It’s times like these I think, why bother? My post is late this week too, due to a family emergency.

And furthermore, and as an aside, I travelled to Rochester, New York Monday (the afore-mentioned emergency) and had lunch in a Cracker Barrel (don’t ask, it’s because this particular restaurant chain is the only one where you can get “greens” yet greens are never ordered by the person who insists we must stop at Cracker Barrel). There we were at the Cracker Barrel and I discovered that they had Halloween decorations out, complete with eerily laughing brooms which skimmed magically across the floor. Just what everyone needs, right? Brooms that travel by themselves?

But the point is, on July 18th we are subjected to Halloween crap? If I’m not mistaken, it’s over three months until we will need any of it, if “need” is the operational word here.

When we were at the front counter paying the bill, the Cracker Barrel lady tried to push candy on us.

“Three for the price of two!” she promised.

“Well, I see you have your Halloween stuff out already,” I said, ignoring the candy offer.

“Oh, yes,” she said, as if this were a good thing.

And I, being in a not-good frame of mind, said, “You know that is exactly what I hate about your place here. I can’t stand it that you have this stuff out so early.”

Ignoring my obvious disdain, she said, “Our Thanksgiving display is out too, over there.” She pointed to an area on the other side of the store. The “store” by the way, could be the subject of a whole other blog, but a talking broom that skims the floor is a clue as to the quality of the merchandise sold there.

I said, “You know, it’s July and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to think about Thanksgiving. When does the Christmas stuff come out, anyway?” (I may have said something a little worse than “stuff”, I’m not sure, but remember, I was in a crappy mood.)

“The last week in July,” she announced, and I think she was kind of proud about that, as if, we can SO compete with the big time – the box stores and Macy’s and even J.C. Penney and Sears!

Whatever.

Here’s the real blog content now:

A few months back a friend of mine commented that when she searched for my books on Amazon, they don’t both come up under Lynn Schneider, but Whatever Happened to Lily? the print version, comes up only under Lynette. So searching for books under the author name of Lynn Schneider does not bring up everything, which is two print versions and two kindle versions, but one print and two kindle versions. Not good.

Way back when, without properly thinking it through, I listed the author name as “Lynette” then decided I wanted to change it to Lynn. But too late, the author name is listed as Lynette. I asked CreateSpace about this and they informed me that that I’d have to rerelease the book because the author name can’t be changed.

The kindle versions are not an issue. These are easily changed.

I’m going to rerelease both the print and kindle versions of the novel, but first I thought I’d edit it again, to see if it could still stand up to my newly acquired writing standards. This is what I found.

I found a lot of overused, duplicate, unnecessary words. I tend to use words like “that”, “so”, and “just” way too much. These words are “throwaway words”. Many times they can be eliminated. For instance, take this sentence:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, that my daughter was beautiful and that I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more, that she had cried when she saw it, that it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

I count way too many “thats”, in fact there are six of them. Some of these are superfluous. Here is the correction:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, my daughter was beautiful and I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more. She had cried when she saw it, and it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

Take this sentence: He thought that he might go back inside. The “that” is not needed. He thought he might go back inside.

Sometimes “that” is needed, but 75% of the time it’s not. So I always have to edit for “that”.

Other words I overuse (especially in dialogue) are “just” and “so”. I’m not sure why, but I tend to use these words ad nauseum and must edit them out.

For example:

“So, I was just walking by your house and saw that the light was on in your room, so I figured that it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

This can (and should) be edited, unless for some reason, all those extraneous words seem necessary in order to make the point, that the character is kind of clueless.

“I was walking by your house and saw the light was on in your room, and figured it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

The corrected sentence gets rid of a couple of occurrences of “so” and “that” and a “just”.

Another thing I noticed and which I wanted to fix, is inappropriate punctuation after sentences that contain dialogue.

“That has nothing to do with me,” she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Incorrect!

If dialog is followed by an attribution (she said, for example), it can be thus:

“That has nothing to do with me,” she said and she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Or:

“That has nothing to do with me.” She shut the refrigerator with a thump.

But really, I wanted to edit the character, Jay. The more I thought about it, the more I believed he was a crude jerk, when he goes for a run in order to “decide” whether he should continue his cyber-relationship with Lily or not. What a weasel. He runs and thinks about how his marriage sucks and how it’s not really his fault, that it’s Nan’s fault – blah, blah. Meh. He needs to own it. He is the one who wanted it, he decided to do it, he needs to be responsible for his decisions without blaming others. Here is the new passage:

As I ran, I thought about my marriage to Nan. It had been on a gradual decline and I couldn’t say when it had first begun, but I wondered if now that Grace was gone, there really wasn’t a reason for us to be together any longer, as she had suggested. She was tired of the whole situation, of me, and my feelings for Lily.

[Seems like he is telling himself what he wants to hear in the above paragraph.]

If I were honest with myself I would have to admit that I loved her, but not like I’d loved Lily. She seemed unapproachable to me now. No matter what I said or did, I couldn’t get past the wall she had built up between us. She didn’t want me now. I had a role in it too, of course, with what was happening between Lily and me. I tried to tell myself it was Nan who was solely responsible, but I knew it wasn’t so.

[He’s being honest with himself, aren’t we lucky? She’d (Nan) had built up a wall. With good reason, and he’s starting to feel like he might have done some things to affect their situation. Wow. How very perceptive.]

My chest hurt, and I had to stop. I felt bad, shaking and nauseous. I wondered if I had overdone it, was I having some sort of attack? A heart attack maybe? I had never entertained the possibility that such a thing could happen. I was healthy, a runner. Look at my father, still vital in his eighties. But something felt twisted, and I sank down onto the sand.

[My male characters all tend to have physical issues, chest pains and the like, when they get upset.]

My breathing slowed and I felt better and realized it must have been some kind of panic attack, that the combination of the run and my delusions about myself had thrown me into.

[An aha moment, he’s realized he has delusions about himself.]

Because it had nothing to do with Nan. It wasn’t my perceived notion that my marriage was going sour that would make it okay to establish some sort of relationship with Lily. It was me. I was solely responsible for it, I wanted it. I didn’t have the strength to not want it. I wanted to know Lily again. I wanted to have something with her. I couldn’t stop it. I was a weak, horrible person. I knew that. But I couldn’t stop it.

[Finally. He acknowledges what the reader already knows. The author wanted him to come across as a very sympathetic character, but blaming others for his actions doesn’t work. He will still be a nice guy in the readers’ eyes, I think, but with imperfections and real-life temptations and decisions to make.]

By the time I reached home, I’d made my decision what to do about Lily and I needed to tell Nan what had happened.

My male characters aren’t alpha males, like in romance novels. One of my good friends told me she thought I did women characters better and my male characters were a little “wussy”. I’d like to think Jay isn’t wussy, but he’s no alpha male.

I don’t believe in alpha males. I don’t think there are any, but if there is a sliding scale between alpha and wussy, Jay falls somewhere in between.

The above are some of the things I needed to do to my novel to (I hope) improve it. I hadn’t read it in a long time, more than a year, and I found I still liked it, but there were a few things I wanted to change about it to make it even better.

10 thoughts on “Editing and re-editing

  1. Happy anniversary for very good blog. I have found it honest and entertaining. Will be interesting to see if July is a blip. I have a son that’s a trader and it has always been his view the market just doesn’t work the same in July. Hard to know why, but he thinks it the pull of summer to do something else that reduces the number of fingers buying and selling.
    I had to look up ‘blip’ to see if my usage was correct.

  2. jhart, thanks for your comment! I am glad you enjoy the blog and thanks for your continued support! I think “blip on the radar” is the phrase where that comes from. I think you might be right, July is the middle of summer and people have better things to do than stay glued to their computers, whether buying and selling or just surfing. Some bloggers get thousands of hits per week, I am not quite in that league. But as long as the trend is upward, that is a good thing and all I can hope for at this point.

  3. Since I still have that bit of spare time, thought I’d add my two coppers to this one. Loved the bit about Cracker Barrel – really hate having Fall/Winter holiday decorations out while I’m still sweating bullets from the summer heat! Seriously, was business that slow that they put staff to work hanging decorations early, in case patrons flooded into the place and they wouldn’t have the time in Oct. & Nov.???!!
    Liked your adjustments/corrections to “…Lily”, but I still want to reach out and touch Jay with a hard object for letting himself be sucked back by Lily!
    Keep up the good work, and I’m still waiting for another ‘Alice’ story!!

    • Sue, it seems like it gets earlier every year. Why don’t we just leave all the stuff around for the whole year? And the kids have been out of school for one week and it’s “Back to School time!”. God. Did you see my reference to you? Did you remember that you said the male characters were a tad “wussy”? About Jay, c’mon now, there wouldn’t be much of a conflict/story if Jay never got sucked back into Lily. Stories about happy, normal people are boring.

    • Oh, and there are no more Alice stories. There were three chapters, the one about Alice and her grief, Alice and her first hospice patient and Alice and the Assisted Living guy. I’ve posted the link to all three chapters on previous postings.

  4. Your sarcasm about the Cracker Barrel decor is so Lynette. Funny stuff. I admire your strong connection to your surroundings. I am usually daydreaming about something else and often don’t even notice the particulars of a situation. That’s probably why I’ll never be a writer. I surely understand about the editing. I even go back and edit my diary sometimes! I also agree that July is a “vacation” month, even if only in our minds. I find I don’t want to think about anything serious in the summer. So glad you continue to be absorbed in the world of wriitng (and thinking.) You’re very good at both.

  5. Yes, it’s true, I do pay attention to my surroundings. Sometimes I like to people watch and try to figure out what is going on with the ones around me. Kind of like reading bumper stickers. So maybe I am attentive, or maybe I’m just nosy. Sometimes someone will say something and I’ll develop a whole scene around one sentence. Here’s my latest that is going into my next book, titled The Perigee Moon: “Nothing says love like a new soaker hose.”

  6. I know there’re no more Alice stories, but was hoping sometime when you’re out of other ideas, that you might consider a few more stories, or even a book – really liked that character!

  7. Guess you’re right about Jay – wouldn’t have been much left to write if he’d told Lily to buzz off! And re the “back to school” adds: just one year, I’d like to be able to buy summer clothes during the actual summer, rather than having to anticipate my summer needs during the Ides of March!

    • Sue, I’ve been receiving a lot of interesting comments about Jay lately. Real life situations don’t necessarily make for great fiction though. And I agree, it’s hard to think about summer needs when there is still snow on the ground.

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