Wendy – my editor – and I are about half-way through our first round of content edits for Hyacinth. I will say that so far this is going much smoother than the first round of Blue Violet. With my first book, I had to do a lot of rewriting and adding and moving. Some key plot points – like establishing the tension earlier in the book and creating a stronger connection between my two main characters – required decently large re-dos. All well worth it in the end.
Once we got past those larger changes, Wendy helped point out some specific bad habits. With Blue Violet this included talking heads and telling. (Click the links to read my previous posts about those edits.) While writing Hyacinth, I kept those specific issues in the back of my mind and tried my best to catch them before the manuscript ever went to Wendy. Based on her edits so far, I think I did a pretty good job.
What’s been both interesting (and amusing in a “huh – how about that?” kind of way) is I now have the following new bad habits to work on:
I don’t think I did this a lot in Blue Violet, but apparently, in an attempt to give my characters actions during dialogue, I’ve been writing a lot of verbs ending in “ing”. Here’s one of my favorite comments on this from Wendy: “This sentence is physically impossible or at the very least, incredibly awkward. It is indicating that she is doing these actions (crossing a dainty ankle, placing purse beside her, and folding hands in lap) all at once as she is sitting down. She’d need incredible balance and more hands.”
Superfluous Dialogue Tags
I almost always identify the speaker in dialogue. However, and now that I think about this it makes sense, 99.9999% of the time you can (and should) eliminate any dialogue tags PRIOR to actual dialogue, especially when the speaker has just been given attribution of action. We know they are the ones speaking so it is just useless words.
Distracting Dialogue Tags
In addition, I tend to get creative with my dialogue tags. Instead of just saying “he said” or “she asked” I get more descriptive with something like “he prodded” or “she questioned.” These can be a lot like “telling” and can pull the reader out of the dialogue. Now, as a writer, I have to admit that I get bored with “he said” so I’ll probably still pop variations in there periodically. I’ll just be careful to do it sparingly now.
Correcting Talking Heads Too Much
Talking heads happen when I put no actions in with the dialogue. People don’t just sit perfectly still and talk to each other. They move around, they twitch, they do things. Talking heads was a big bad habit to correct in Blue Violet. What’s ironic is that in trying to keep this habit out of Hyacinth I’ve gone a little too far the other way. My characters now have a little too much action during dialogue and it takes the reader out of it. Oops! Okay, so move them around a little bit, but not too much. Got it!
How these new bad habits cropped up when they weren’t a problem before is a conundrum (except the talking heads over-correction – I see how that happened). But even so, I continue to love the editing process. I love learning new ways to improve my writing. I love making the book stronger and better. And I love knowing that I’m so close to finally releasing the next book. So keep ’em coming Wendy!