Thursday, May 07, 2009

Backwards

Since Jess and a few other people have been a bit surprised by my back wards method of working I thought I'd try and show you what I mean using a short excerpt from Animal Instincts. Be warned it is quite painstaking as a way of working but It works for me. To show this properly I'm going to reverse the excerpt round to demonstrate how I check from the end

“Pay the man, Clo,” Immi ordered and staggered sideways, flinging her arm around the driver’s neck to steady herself.
“Whoops!” She giggled.

In this bit I wanted to show Immi was drunk but I didn't want to use slurred speech or a long description so I checked to see that her actions revealed her condition. Her dialogue shows her as a happy drunk at odds with her emotional state later on when she reveals the events from earlier in the evening



He must have driven her quite a distance to want sixty pounds and it was typical of Immi not to have any money with her.

This sentence reveals Immi's habitual habit of acting without any regard for the consequences a hint towards the chat show issue



“That’ll be sixty quid, Miss.” The taxi driver supporting my sozzled step-sister leaned her against the doorframe, a look of relief on his florid features.

Again this sentence shows Immi's state and the taxi driver isn't a character that will feature again - I just need to give the reader a word picture of the scene without a huge description and to show she must have come a long way to run up such a big fare - something out of the ordinary and a foil for Clodagh's perilous finances.

“Surprise!” Immi wobbled on her heels and blinked owlishly at me, “I’ve got a present for you.” She waved an unopened bottle of champagne in my face.

This contrasts the two sisters, immi with champagne which Clodagh would probably never drink and it gives an early indication of Immi's generous nature even if she doesn't think things through

The light from the hall spilled out into the night illuminating the two figures on my front doorstep.

This is the opening line of the book. It had to have something of a hook - who were the two figures? and why were they there in the night?

So, after that - in the right order as you would read it.

The light from the hall spilled out into the night illuminating the two figures on my front doorstep.
“Surprise!” Immi wobbled on her heels and blinked owlishly at me, “I’ve got a present for you.” She waved an unopened bottle of champagne in my face.
“That’ll be sixty quid, Miss.” The taxi driver supporting my sozzled step-sister leaned her against the doorframe, a look of relief on his florid features. He must have driven her quite a distance to want sixty pounds and it was typical of Immi not to have any money with her.
“Pay the man, Clo,” Immi ordered and staggered sideways, flinging her arm around the driver’s neck to steady herself.
“Whoops!” She giggled.


All the way through I'm looking to catch any repetition, have I foreshadowed something? Have I repeated a phrase that I overlooked on my forwards edits? Have I got enough emotion or does a phrase seem flat when I look up to the one before it? Is the description clear enough to give the reader a picture in their mind of the scene?

I write quite a sparing, clean first draft so my backwards pass tends to add in odd words here and there. For other people they might need to cut things out. I like dialogue and action tags that show a scene and reveal character. How about you? For the writers out there how do you edit?

10 comments:

Laura Hamby said...

How do I edit? Well, not backwards, but not perzactly in order, either. I'll do an initial adit pass. From there, I'll go back and work on areas I'd tagged as needing more intensive revising, then I do another pass in order. I guess you could say I've gone backwards when, working on something at one point, it triggers an "I need to fix *this*" reflex, so I'll go back. Sorta counts. Ish.

I find the backwards editing intriguing.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Nell - what a brilliant insight. Not sure I could work that way but I might just give it a try.

lx

ninaharrington said...

What a great post! This is more or less my process except that I more likely to cut and trim so that the expressions are more concise.
One thing is clear - as writers we have to know PRECISELY what emotional response we want the words on the page to elicit in the reader.
And most non-writers think is an easy process where we sit around all day 'churning out' aka Miss Cartland, lying on our velvet chaise. Sigh. LOL.

Julie Day said...

Well, for the book I've nearly finished, I wrote the first draft and because it was too long for the age range it was inteneded for I had to cut, and cut and cut again. I kept going through it, deciding which bits weren't relevant to the story. The last draft I did I also changed scenes to reflect the theme more. Now I have it down to the right word count and am just reading through it to find any minor amendments and then it will go to the publishers.

Phillipa said...

Nell,

Thank you for sharing this - it's fascinating process and I can see how you create your characters and tension build upm, making your books seem so 'real' and immediate.

I blush to read it really because I don't have a methodical bone in my body. I bash out my scenes, almost totally train of thought, even if the words are unintelligeible - usually leaving a hell of a mess. I edit as I go along, and at the end producing several drafts that need major rewrites. I leave loads of typos, inconsistencies and ... basically, my method is a complete mess. So I am horribly inefficient and usually, traumatised by the end of a book!

Your way is MUCH better - I would never ever recommend anyone write a book the way I do as it's wrong, wrong, wrong, but I just don't have that clarity of thought.

Phillipa said...

One thing is clear - as writers we have to know PRECISELY what emotional response we want the words on the page to elicit in the reader.

Nina - Personally, I'm not quite so sure about this. I very often don't know what response I want to elicit as I'm still finding out myself, and often I'm very surprised!

My method sadly does involve much metaphorival 'lying about on couches', letting the characters just kind of do stuff.

Nell Dixon said...

Lots of interesting posts. I suspect because I'm naturally inclined to be a bit lazy that doing this saves me a great deal of revisions and edits from my editors later on, and this is always my final pass so the tidying uphas largely been done beforehand. I agree with Nina that I think we do know what response we want to elicit from a reader but I think for some of us we know as we go along and for others of us our subconcious does the ground work and then we find the response there as we tidy and rewrite.

Two for the Show... said...

And most non-writers think is an easy process where we sit around all day 'churning out' aka Miss Cartland, lying on our velvet chaise.You forgot the bon-bons! How are we EVAH going to write from our velvet chaises without our bon-bons? Hee!

Nell, to the contrary, I think your process negates any claim you have on laziness.

I say that the process that works for you is the best way, but I also think that we have a tremendous benefit being writers in this technological age when we have all sorts of info/tips/guides so readily available to us that makes is easier and very convenient for us to learn and grow in this craft. :D

~Laura

Jessica Raymond said...

Oh, that makes so much sense! I think if you're reading the "normal" way while editing then it can be too easy to just READ the book and miss things that you might otherwise pick up if you do it backwards, i.e., when you're not reading the story itself and actually just looking at each little section of words. Great tip!

B.G. Sanford said...

Nell, I find your method fascinating, and your article both informative and entertaining. I edit exactly opposite from the way you do it. My new book,"Beth:Love Along The Way...by B.G.Sanford, and just released by Eloquent Books, was complex for me to edit, but I won't go into that. It's the amazing story of one woman who overcomes all odds and obstacles
that life throws at her, not to mention two ugly divorces, and she
still finds real Love......Along The Way. And for those so inclined, my book may be purchased on line or have your local bookstore order it for you. Either way, the reader is in for a real treat!
Good reading my friends,
B.G.Sanford
www.eloquentbooks.com/BethLoveAlongTheWay.html