Well I have done another rewrite of the first chapter of Ordo Lupus – even though it is already available.
Basically one of the last crits I received on http://www.critters.org (they come in for about a week after you submit) was by somebody who I feel is a very experienced writer. Rather like what they are advising me to do more of with my writing, they actually showed me what do do with parts of my text rather than just tell me.
The problem was with thoughts or more specificaly POV thoughts (another acronym I learned – Point of View). In many places, because my book is in first-person he expresses thoughts which are left unsaid. Until now I didn’t know what the convention for this was so I just put them in single parentheses, thus ‘thought’.
He told me the convention is to use a new line, as if it is speech and put the word as an italic, without parentheses. I must admit it looks a lot better and is more succinct.
My first chapter, right from the word go (get-go if you are American) has suffered from more ‘tell’ and less ‘show’ than I would like. This is mainly because the main character is roughly ten years old at this point and spends a lot of time in introspection. Also I am trying to build a picture of who he is without having to describe a lot of different incidents. This has led in a few places to (as the crit person referred to it) a ‘wall of text’ – paragraphs that are way too long.
Being able to split thoughts out in the way outlined above has really helped me take a big step towards slimming this down. I also decided that really, descriptions of h is family and much of the build up to events is not really necessary so I have taken these out.
In other places, I was able to pick more choice phrases which he ‘thinks’ or even says to himself, in place of long passages which told what he thought about certain things.
One case which was singled-out was a passage where he (the narrator) is trying to illustrate his experiences with evil and the flow of events that can build up around this. It was very clumsy because I didn’t want to go to extremes and as a result, I was too subtle. My original thought was of a coin falling down a drain on a road but it was presented more as a symbol than as an actual example. Now the text puts it as an example and its much stronger. It goes something like this:
An example: My only coin falls out of my pocket and, trying to catch it as it rolled away, I slip and kick it towards the only drain for one hundred yards. It falls down and as a result I do not have the fare home. This means I have to walk and get knocked over by a car.
I did try ‘hit by a bus’ but that sounded too strong and cliched. Even now it is stronger than I would have tried before, but I think if anything it does midly puncture the readers flow of thoughts and expectations so that it makes them sit up and pay attention.
As a result I think Chapter 1 is a lot stronger now and two pages shorter. I will go through the whole story changing the ‘thoughts’ where I see them to italics but I looked last night for other ‘walls of text’ and could find none as bad as in the first chapter so I think I will leave it alone in this respect.
Interestingly enough, having spent the first evening working on it for some time I then typically experienced horribly bad luck for the end of the evening, which made me recall just what trial it was to write. I don’t know what it is about Ordo Lupus but bad things happen to me whenever I work on it. I won’t go into details but will just say that it involved 3 different types of insect that just wouldn’t leave me alone – a unique event in my cold flat on an evening that could hardly be described as a summer one.
One other thing that came up which was interesting was a discussion with another crit person about narrative ‘age’. In Ordo Lupus, the narrator is, on the whole speaking from the point of view of a 50ish man but his recollections of childhood are those of a child but often using words that the child wouldn’t have had access to. The person critting my Chapter was, at first, of the opinion that this was a problem. However, he then emailed me back to say that he had changed his mind and that he thought it worked. I later read an article on the bbc website about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The article was largely discussing why the book appeals to adults and children alike and the writer put forward their opinion that the reason was because the narrative ‘age’ moved continually between that of the middle-aged woman that the writer was, and scout, who was at the time the story took place, a child.
Here is the article.
I will be on twitter soon, probably as LazloF. I will let you know when I am.