As of August 24th, I finished my final pass of Jessie’s Song, and it’s now ready for a professional edit. I even wrote a song to accompany the book which one of my daughters will sing.
Jessie’s Song went through several incarnations, beginning life as a high-concept screenplay I wrote for a screenwriting class. There were several instances where I wanted to drag the Final Draft file to the trash because I didn’t like Markos Adams, the protagonist. He began life as a hit man, evolved into a police officer, and when I decided to do it my way, he found his authentic voice as a jazz musician. It was then that the story sprung to life and was one of the reasons I made the transition from screenwriter to novelist; I wanted to see what made Markos Adams tick inside. As a side note: Unison also had its beginnings as a screenplay, with only two characters. Now it’s a full-blown epic with a large cast. Talk about story evolution!
- Never give up on a story, especially one with a strong concept and hook. Once you get it to where it should be, you’ll be a truly satisfied—and happy writer!
- Don’t allow an instructor, or anyone else, steer you away from your vision because that will only lead to confusion and A LOT more rewrites. I have fourteen Final Draft revision files from Jessie’s Song! That’s at least ten two many. Take only advice that will help you advance in your craft. Incidentally, my screenwriting class was excellent, and I learned a lot from the instructor. I just wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities as a writer to make an authorial stand.
During the last pass, I cut over 4,200 superfluous words and added a little more than 2000 that deepened the tone and characterization. Through this whole process, I noticed I was harsher on my work than my beta readers. They never took issue with the threads I ended up cutting. This all leads to my suspicion that if you, as an author, can maintain complete objectivity during an edit, you make your own best beta reader. I say this because it’s your book, and no one knows the story as well as you do. I’m not saying beta readers aren’t necessary. They helped me find a plethora of typos and inconsistencies, but as far as the pacing was concerned, none of them took issue with it. Granted, I do have an extremely short-attention span that might have something to do with my sensitivity to pacing. In real life, I’m a get-to-your-point-and-make it kind of gal, and that’s how I write my stories. During my final read through, when I sensed even the slightest bit of drag. I looked at each chapter and ended up cutting out four chapters.
- Not necessary to the resolution or advancement of the plot.
- The cost of the book. Unison’s final word count is at 534 pages! To use extended distribution for a physical book, it would cost eighteen dollars minimum to make a profit. I thought about cutting the word count, but this is the way the story had to be told for me to get my vision across…and readers would still pay more by having to buy two books anyway. I decided to stall extended distribution for a couple of months until my Kindle edition comes out.
- I want people with short-attention spans, like yours truly, to ready my book as well!
MAKING THE CUTS
I reflected over the book blurb to reconnect to the main idea of my story. Jessie’s Song is a paranormal mystery about Markos Adams, whose daughter is kidnapped, and the ransom calls for his suicide. While most of the journey deals with his search for the kidnapper, Markos is haunted by visions that make him, along with all those close to him, doubt his interpretations of events. As Markos believes a childhood rival has something to do with the kidnapping, he reflects over his past. He understands he may have to take his life and looks to his past in an attempt to uncover a motive for what’s happening in the present. These are the necessary plot points to tell the story effectively.
I had to nest chapters from Markos’s past in a way that wouldn’t break up the urgency of the plot. In my first draft, I arranged the chapters and threads on the big cork board seen here on the right. I erroneously believed the chapters would remain where they were, but my mid-point ended up coming in way too late. After I rearranged the chapters in this last read through, I took out a weak thread between Markos and a woman with whom he had a short fling. Its function was to demonstrate how Markos had evolved from his past, but I realized it was no longer necessary because I depicted enough growth in the main thread.
As I got to the end of my edit, I took out a chapter that dealt with Markos’s estranged wife. I didn’t think that particular chapter would be chopped because she’s an important character. There was also some excellent dialogue. While it worked well in the screenplay, it wasn’t necessary for the advancement or resolution of the plot in novel form, and it slowed down the third act. Chop, chop, chop went another darling, and my mid-point ended up where it belonged…in the middle.
The more I write, the more I realize that storytelling is a precise science. Ensuring my structure is solid has become the most important part of an edit for me. When the plot moves forward, without any distractions or going off-point, everything seemingly falls into place as if by design.
I’ve oftentimes joked about how it would be nice if I knew I wouldn’t need a chapter before I write it; however most of my over-writing ends up adding more depth to my characters. After I release Jessie’s Song, I’ll put up the chopped darlings on my website. One way or another, they will be read!
Love and light,