Search and destroy

I’ve been plugging away at The Swan Harp this week and doing nothing much else in the way of writing. I did take a couple of days to go to Sticks, Strings and Stewardship, the annual knitters’ retreat in Sudbury, but even there I spent a couple of hours quietly in my room doing edits and fixes on the novel.

While I still have a list of things that need to be done, there are no more large scenes to write, no more global search-and-destroy missions. That’s a relief, because the search-and-destroy was time-consuming. One of the words that needed it was “like” – and I’m not talking about people using “like” as every other word in a sentence. I just didn’t realize that it appeared more than two hundred times in a 216-page work. Most of them I changed to something more precise, and some I left, and the rest I simply shot and buried. (I did say it was search-and-destroy, not find-and-replace!)

David suggested I simply write my replacement word into the find-and-replace window. It wasn’t going to work often enough to make it worth doing. Sometimes I had to replace not only “like”, but part of the sentence around it. That meant that I had to read the sentence, and sometimes the whole paragraph, to figure out what word or phrase was the best fit for what I truly wanted to say. It took me approximately six hours to go through the whole manuscript, and I think I got off lucky with that amount of time. It could have taken longer.

Every time I go through this story I see ways in which it could be improved. Some of those things are practical, meaning I could actually apply them to the manuscript. Some of them are not, because they have to do with expanding the world, filling in details that interest me intensely and may bore the socks off my readers. Let’s face it, when you’re building a complex world, you could spend your whole life getting it properly squared away. Who, precisely, is the bee-woman? How many hives are there, and how do you get the honey and wax? How much honey and wax is there? I’m very interested in how that works, but it probably doesn’t need to be in the novel. It might, however, come up in the next one.

For now I’m saving some of those things up. I’m working on getting my scenes and timeline right, on making sure I’m very clear about when things happen and in what order. So far I think it’s working, and I’m hopeful that what I have in this draft is almost ready for publication. (Having said that, I am also prepared to be shot down. Parachute ready, here.)

I’m definitely going to make that October 1st deadline, oh, yes. It’s a wonderful feeling. But I still have a lot of hard work to get done before then, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to it.

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3 Responses to Search and destroy

  1. Your writing on the blog has changed, too. More happiness or something. Maybe more relaxed. I’m not sure. But it’s fun to see the change. 🙂

    • ecreith says:

      Really? Hmmm, interesting that that shows, because I think I am happier. I have a day job, providing roadside assistance, which means sometimes I’m dealing with really cranky people, or having to do fun things like arrange a 176-mile tow, or trying to get a tow truck in West Virginia, where we seem to have three towing companies under contract and all of them are out of range of phone service. Since I completed the sixth draft of The Swan Harp, and particularly since I sent it in to the agent, none of these things bother me any more. It’s as though the achievement of finishing my novel has really reminded me that roadside assistance isn’t who I am. It’s how I pay the bills.

      • Yes. Really. Let’s see — it’s like comparing grinding meat to decorating a cake. One is hard work, and not really fun; the other is beautiful and just flows. And is sweet, to boot! 🙂

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