The torture of self editing and a sundried tomato and oregano pesto that outs a smile on your face
I've began work on self editing my upcoming novel just a couple of days ago. The manuscript so far has 245 pages, give or take. I'm currently on page 37. I've been asking myself if I will ever see the end of it, quite frankly. Before I even got started, I decided to do a little research, and googled apps and articles for self editing novels. Well, it's a world out there. A scary one, actually. The more I read from editors and publishers about what is considered no-no's and proof of newbie writers that lack talent, scared the hell out of me.
See, I have this problem with my writing - actually, according to many apps and opinion articles online, I have more than one problem! - and if you have been reading this blog long enough, you already know what it is. I loooove long sentences. I not only revell in writing them, I adore reading long sentences. It gives me a sense of all being right with the world, almost. It conveys emotion, builds up tension, it makes my heart stutter and pitter patter and go boom like a drum. But in the world of proper good writing, long sentences are a huge no-no. Long sentences make it all very difficult to read and should be nipped at the bud immediately.
The same applies to adverbs. I tend to use a few. Really - see what I did there? If you know anything about me, you know I adoooore Stephen King, you know I bow down to his genius and his art. But the first time I read his opinion on adverbs - as well as his opinion on Kubrick's version of The Shinning - I put down my foot. For most people, adverbs are akin to satan. Adverbs are evidence of poor writers, talent lacking scriveners, people who rely on those same adverbs to make their prose sound grander and snobbish and verbose. I utterly disagree with this. There's another adverb for you! I try to not overuse and was actually quite surprised when I used the Hemingway App - more on that later - to see I was not an adverb junkie like I thought. Still, the app did recommend I cut down more than half of all those I used. I did.
Then there's that thing with the use of weak words - thing's one of them, btw. Sometimes a thing has to be a thing, but you're advised to cut the thing out of your manuscript! Words such a 'like', or 'small', or 'short', are viewed as weak words. You're advised to substitute them with stronger words, with sentences even. I tried that. I cut 'short' and replaced it by 'elfin', as suggested. But a 'short' person is not necessary an 'elfin' one. Someone short and stocky will never be elfin. Elfin, to me, doesn't even mean someone who is not tall. It means someone who has a lithe figure, frankly. Reedy and thin but at the same time alluring. I also tried substituting 'short' and 'small' for 'not tall'. But it's not the same, sorry. Someone who is not tall - like 1,90m is tall - is not necessarily short - like 1,50m is short. Sometimes one can be 1,68m and that's not tall, but it is also not short. It's somewhere in between. So when I describe a character as short, this character IS short. As in 1,60m or less.
And then there's the war on the passive voice. I do use the passive voice a lot. If you've read my previous novel, you'll have noticed, and maybe you were even driven crazy by that - see, I just did it! Using the passive voice, these days, seems to be regarded as another evidence of weak writing, of action that does not flow, of things that keep happening to the characters and not the characters acting upon the story. Again, I disagree. See, there's the question of style, and I have noticed that my style of writing focus quite a lot on this use of the passive voice. My characters, like me, tend to brood a lot. They tend to analyze previous happenings. I can write chapter after chapter of characters thinking about something that happened like four hours ago, or five weeks prior, and there will be adescritpion of those happenings, because they are important to the story, with the use of the pasive voice. It is my personal style of writing. But it's another huge no-no.
So by the time I was ready to use this online app, the Hemingway App, that points out everything that needs to be changed, I was convinced my writing sucked big time and I should simply quit while I was ahead, save myself the trouble and the hassle and the long hours. But I decided to try it on first. I used the app and made the changes - most of them - I was advised to make. I haven't re-read it yet, but I know what I'm going to find. See, there's a reason why I don't read many contemporary authors. I find most of the prose being written and published today quite stale and empty. Characters seem to lack substance, and the writing to me lacks oomph. Dialogues sound hollow and contrived, no one speaks like that! People, regular people, they use a lot of weak words when they're talking to each other, that enriches the dialogues between characters and makes them credible. The books I read from contemporary authors all seem to have perfectly manicured dialogues, where characters are terse and curt and grammarly correct, never resorting to the use of adverbs and weak words, not even when they're gripped by strong emotions and trying to talk to another character in the midst of internal turmoil. This is not what I want for my writing, it would not be me. I don't know what to do, anymore. I want to keep my essence and my style as a writer - that's why I chose to go Indie! - but I also want to clean my prose of clichés and overemotional splurts.
So as you can tell, this is doing my head in. It's friday and I feel knackered and disapointed at myself, I feel like I could use a thick slice of pizza and a glass of red. And because I feel the need for pizza, here's a pesto I use on our latest ones. It can be used for pasta as well, and I even seasoned a roast chicken with it! A good pesto, all and all.
- five to six large sundried tomatoes
- half a cup of almonds
- one garlic clove
- a handful of fresh oregano leaves
- a dizzle of good olive oil
- salt and pepper