Monday, May 8, 2017

The Penultimate Step In Writing Your Novel

I'm in the final stages of The Iron Dragon's Mother, where for every two pages I write, I rip out one that already exists. This would be alarming if I hadn't been through this exact same process so many times before.

However, this stage takes up so much of my attention that I've been neglecting my blog. Well, if I have to neglect one, I'd rather it not be my novel. Still, I do feel an obligation to those who read this blog regularly. So here's some gratuitous free advice for gonnabe writers.

I may have already told you what the final step in a writing a novel is: Reading the entire novel, from start to finish, aloud. There is no better way to discover the typos, dropped words, repetitions, and other bonehead mistakes that somehow manage to survive multiple revisions. Anyone who skips this step has only oneself to blame when they manage (as some will) to slip past the proofreader and editor.

The penultimate step, to be taken after the entire thing is written but before the oral reading is to go through the novel looking for repeated words and phrases. I'm writing a fantasy novel, so the first words I'll run through the search function are "great" and "vast." Such words are endemic to fantasy and you wouldn't want to overuse them:

The red knight rode out of the vast forest on his great destrier. Before him lay the vastness of the Panchatantra mountain range with nestled  below it the great city of T'renton. He had reached the midpoint of his epic so that the remaining great deeds of the future stretched, half-vast, before him.

Everyone has turns of phrase they particularly like. (I'm partial to "He said nothing" as a single-sentence paragraph, myself.) These should be identified and then searched. If they're striking enough to be memorable, repetition will lower you considerably in the readers' esteem.

And that's all. It's not really very difficult at all. But it is necessary.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write.



Pat J said...


I see what you did there.

Mark Pontin said...

'I'm partial to "He said nothing" as a single-sentence paragraph, myself.'

You're far from the only one with that partiality, of course.

Reacher Said Nothing
Lee Child and the Making of Make Me

During dialog, interstitial description of characters and their mannerisms and speech needs to happen -- for rhythmic purposes, to punctuate the dialog, if for no other reason -- and most authors' lack of inspiration on this front usually becomes evident. 'He/she paused' is another wearisome bit of interstitial description during dialog.