I have a novel that’s been sitting around a while. One day, I’m going to send it to an agent. I haven’t worked up the nerve just yet.
Self-publishing works for a lot of people. There are some successful authors out there who self-publish. I wonder sometimes if that would be a better option for me.
But there are some things for which I really, really feel like I need a good editor.
Chapters, for example. I can’t get my head around chapters. Maybe I just read too many Discworld books in my formative years, or something, but chapters seem so weirdly unnecessary to me. I’ve never written anything that deliberately has chapters. I think about chapters, and then get all intimidated. Where should they go? How long do they need to be? Is this too short? Is this too long? Is there only meant to be one scene to a chapter? How many can I have?
You answer these questions by reading, foolish girl. (But I do read! I read all the time!) Read intentionally. Read to examine structure rather than just… just the beat of the story. Hannibal has chapters; some are long, some are very short, just a page and a half. I know this. It also changes tense from time to time, which bothered me the first time I picked it up, until I got a feel for the book and understood its purpose. The tense-changing actually works very well in Hannibal.
(Of course, that doesn’t mean the fact that you accidentally changed tense three times in that scene is OK. Hey, don’t worry about it! This is why we have drafts. Just, y’know, fix that shit.)
I should sit down and look through books I particularly enjoy, and see how they structure things. Deliberately examine their methods. Take notes. Sorted, you say? No, not really. I still need the input. I have all these questions: “Is this metaphor too heavy-handed? Does this voice come across well? Is this scene necessary – that is, am I allowed to keep it? Do I need to spell this theme out, or will everyone understand?”
I’m writing something at the moment, and going back to read old scenes before I write new ones, and realising I had inadvertently foreshadowed something. YUS! I scramble to write myself little notes about these so that I don’t forget to sufficiently include the thing that had been foreshadowed. “How can you forget to write about something so important that you’d foreshadowed it without even realising it?” YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED, dear reader. I am very good at forgetting things that I had been sure I would not forget. “Oh hey, that’s a good line. No need to write it down, I’m sure I’ll remember it when I get out of the shower/home from my walk/etc.” False. No. You will not remember. You need to write it down. Yes, putting it in the notes app on your phone is allowed, so long as you actually check it. You have to check it! I’ve cleared out some note-taking apps in the past and found any number of little gems just gathering dust, many of which were no longer useful.
I have a personal-sized filofax that I use to keep my notes organised. Notes – quotes, lines, paragraphs, ideas, sketches – go in notebooks to start with, but notebooks are a mess, everything all over the place. Fine for taking notes, fine for sketching drafts. But if you want that one great line to see the light of day, you’re going to need to be able to find it again. Part of writing work that isn’t just your basic, you know, “making words appear”, is tracking down these bits and pieces and filing them away under “poetry”, “story ideas”, “good lines”, “novel notes” and so on. You end up with a little portable shrine of writing goodness. If you’re ever high on motivation but low on ideas, you just dip into it until you find something you like.
I’m sure when I started writing this post, I had some sort of coherent point. Something about needing an editor, and not feeling right about striking out on my own. Fittingly, I have strayed from the point to the extent that this could probably be about three separate blog posts. But that would require editing. And, my friend, it is Saturday night, and this post needs to go up.
I really need to start writing these fuckers in advance.