So I thought I would do a follow-up on those three pesky chapters now that I've gone over them. Let me say that the character depression had nothing to do with the issues of how those chapters read.
If you've been following my late-night tweets, they've mostly been in the form of Charlie Brown "AAARRRGGGG!!!"'s over verb tense. Yes, something so simple actually had a catastrophic effect on my novel. So why didn't I write my previous posts on verb tenses? Because no one pointed it out. No that it should be anyone's job to be the verb police, except for me because I know that I know better, but having multiple people point out to me that something was going wrong in these three chapters had me going over it with an extra diligent eye. So I found the problem, and it's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.
This novel is 1st person narration. Everything that is action happens in the now, unless of course he's remembering something from before hand, but those are narrative memories and not action. For some reason, just for a scattering of paragraphs within these three chapters, my narration dives into narrative memories of now events, thus stifling out the action, creating a "Get Off The Phone" issue. So why didn't I catch this myself during one of my many revisions? Well, I suspect that when the action faded, even I glazed over the passages and therefore didn't read close enough to see that my verbs had changed. I mean, logically this should have been a huge red flag. The writer should never glaze over any part of her work! But that's the only explanation I can think of. And I think the screeching halt caused so many other people to glaze over that they too couldn't pin-point what the real issue was other than "it's very telly and boring." As I said in a previous post, "Show, Don't Tell" is great advice except when you're trying to fix it.
To use my own personal experience as a writing lesson: Check your verbs! And if you aren't a great grammarian, have someone who you know is look purely for sudden verb tense shifts.
It may seem like a little thing, but getting ride of those -ed's opened up the opportunity to access the scene again. It resulted in a "cut one, add five" type of result. While I did have to cut out what essentially became useless sentences, what was happening in those sentences usually managed to stay behind, only this time elaborated into now action.
I know that everyone will tell you that the object of revisions and edits is to cut, not add, but remember that all writing advice is reflective of a particular scenario. In this case, my character still had to experience these events, I just had to switch it up enough so that the reader experienced them too.
Not everything made a comeback from the chopping block. There was a whole stand-alone paragraph that clearly served no other purpose than showing off background information I had come up with. It wasn't necessary to the plot, or in furthering my character's development, it was useless factoid. Yes, in the grand scheme of things in a real life situation, it would be useful knowledge to have, but even documentaries showcase with purpose, and rarely just have the audience watch a camera's continuous footage for 24 hours. Even those get edited down at some point.
So does this mean that my novel is saved and is now completely perfect? Well, I can hope so. I still want to go through it as one big read before I send it back out for a round 2. But I feel much more confident about the changes I've made. It's real easy to just feel defensive about your own work, after all, it's your baby, but as long as those critics and reviewers are coming from a place of honesty and not just grumpy vendettas - because, trust me, there are critique groups out there filled with people who just want you to feel like crap so that they look like geniuses, as well as people who believe that their own work is so perfect that any criticism must be from people who just want you to feel like crap so that they look like geniuses.
This is probably why I limit a lot of my social branching out, people be crazy. But I value beyond words those who have met with me out of mutual respect and encouragement. Treasure those people.
Oh, and I guess I could also add a little follow-up about the "so"'s. There weren't that many. Though I understand where this reviewer is coming from. "So" and "very" are considered to be the devil words in writing since they lead to sentence weakness. I did change a few sentences almost entirely to get around it if there were a few back-to-back so's, but I didn't delete them all. I know my character. Sometimes he's just a "so" kind of guy. You have all now been warned that this next novel will not be free of so's, but you shouldn't be bombarded by them either!
I will post the next Writing Tip on Tuesday as I have been doing. In the meantime, Happy Writing!