The Devil’s in the Details

I have finished my first round of edits with Wendy (Yay!).  During the editing process I added enough stuff, moved enough stuff, and changed enough stuff that I am doing one full read through of the entire manuscript before I send it back to Wendy for round two.

Now… I have to admit, that I’ve always wondered how storytellers could get details, sometimes just small ones, so wrong.  For example, in Star Wars – my all time favorite movies – there are some details that are contradictory or just don’t make sense. (Sorry George – but let’s be honest here.)

However, I now have to admit that I absolutely understand how this can happen.  As readers we have to keep in mind that what takes us hours to read (and therefore the details stay fresh in our minds) the author works on over weeks, months, or even years.  In addition – and this was a big “ah-ha” moment for me – the author has many iterations of the book/screenplay before it ever gets to print (or e-ink).

As an example…  here’s a very small change in detail that happened during the editing process on Blue Violet. In one of my first passes at the book, I had a scene that gave a decent amount of detail about what classes Ellie (my main character) was taking at the high school. It included mentioning that a fairly minor character, Brian, was in her economics class. Later in the book you discover he’s also in her physics class.

If you’ve read my blog post about editing, then you’ll understand why, during editing, Wendy suggested I cut down the descriptions of Ellie’s classes – as that came under the heading of “boring filler stuff.”  However, when doing my fast read through, now it looks like in one scene I say that Ellie and Brian are in physics together, and then later in the book I get it wrong and call it economics.

Now that’s a fairly tiny example of a detail that could get changed and then missed as things move around and shift during the editing process.  Sadly, large details can also get missed. For example, I accidentally changed the physical description of one of my main characters through my various versions.  Even more so, I can see how these detail issues happen when there’s multiple episodes (like Star Wars) or a series of books.

I intend for Blue Violet to be the first of a series. I’m already in the process of writing the second book.  In this process I managed to completely change the powers of one of the main characters in my first book. Seriously. This change is so integral to my second book that I’ve had to go back and rework that character and their impact on various scenes in Blue Violet so that it makes sense. I was lucky I hadn’t published Blue Violet yet because if I had, I would have been stuck.

My key learnings out of this process:
1. Keep a separate document that has details about your characters, situations, and future impacts – and update it when you make changes

2. Do at least one fast read through after you’ve finished the editing to catch and fix as many detail issues as possible (hell – do several fast read throughs).

3. Give those poor authors and screenwriters a break. This writing process is a complicated thing. (Mr. Lucas, you have my sincere apology for every detail issue I ever pointed out in Star Wars).

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