Monday, June 09, 2008

Trust

This past weekend, I read Dead Harvest through for the first time, marking it up as I went in anticipation of the first serious polish. Since I'll be adding a B-story as I go, I expect it'll go through another polish once that draft is done, and then I'll pass it on to Katrina, my final arbiter as to whether or not it's any damn good. (As I've said before, she's pretty darn incapable of lying, so the fact that she's married to me aside, her read-through is a useful litmus test.)

Now, The Angels' Share went through several drafts before I was willing to show it to anyone (seven or eight, I think), and the editing process took damn near a year. This time, I'm shooting for a month or two, tops, and I think it's pretty doable. Why? Because when I wrote The Angels' Share, I really had no idea where a given scene should begin or end, and it took a lot of experimentation to really get it right. But even more importantly, during those early drafts, I had no faith in my own voice - I'd change words, phrases, even whole scenes in one draft, only to waffle and change them back in the next. This time around, I'm trying to trust in the fact that the me who wrote the scene had some idea what he was doing, and the me who's doing the editing is really no more qualified to make judgment calls with regard to usage or rhythm than he was. Simply put, structural stuff, typos, and continuity problems get changed. Matters of taste, not so much. Why? I guess because I think this story has some life to it, some spark. What I want to do is fan the flames, not blow it out.

Now, that's not to say The Angels' Share doesn't have spark, or that it would have been better off with less editing (it does, and it wouldn't have been, believe me). It's just that I learned a lot writing the last book, and I'd be a fool not to put that knowledge to good use.

Besides, if it sucks, one look at Kat's face should be enough to let me know...

9 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wish my husband had the ability to criticize my writing. He reads it all but can't bring himself to said anything critical. A fan club is nice, but....

Chris said...

Believe me, I have every idea how lucky I am. Katrina is perhaps even more versed than I in the realm of mysteries, and certainly between us we've got a pretty broad view of the field. That helps a ton with regard to not retreading someone else's story, and having a beta reader who is savvy with regard to reading mysteries (hopefully) keeps anything I write from being too obvious (or arbitrary). Don't get me wrong -- I don't think she's capable of telling me she HATES something I've written, but her input is nonetheless invaluable.

You know, Patti, I really have to get around to adding you to my links...

Christa M. Miller said...

Ha! I can't lie either.

My husband doesn't like telling me he doesn't like something, but I've found over the last couple of years as I've developed a thicker skin, that he finds it easier to criticize my work. It's not always perfect (mainly because he has about as much time to read my stuff as I have to write it) but I've gotten some of my best suggestions from him.

Chris said...

Yeah, I think between this book and the last, my skin's gotten thicker. I wonder if that means this time she's gonna be harsher? (Skin thinning as we speak...)

Conduit said...

I'm very, very fortunate to have some great beta readers who have helped my enormously. Good critique is just about the most valuable thing a writer can have. One thing I couldn't do, and this is my own personal foible, is allow someone close to me to read my stuff. My best friend of almost twenty-five years is a Doctor of Literature, and you'd think he'd be my go-to-guy when I need someone else's view. He's never read a word I've written, and I think we're both happy to keep it that way.

Your missus sounds like a real diamond, and good on you for being able to share your writing.

Lyman Feero said...

The duality of the word trust in your post is excellent. I've mastered the "trust" behind letting my wife read my work. I haven't gotten to the point where I "trust" in my story telling ability.

The funny thing is, I don't think I ever will, even if I find wild success. A major character flaw for a writer indeed.

Chris said...

Stuart,
Would that I could have been on that list! THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST sounds fascinating indeed.

As far as people close to me reading my stuff, I'm working on it. I didn't sleep for shit the first two nights after I handed Kat THE ANGELS' SHARE. If she flinched, I wanted to know where she was in the story; if she laughed, I wanted to know why. She had to wait until I fell asleep on the third night and read the rest in one fell swoop. I'm hoping I do a little better this time...

And Lyman,

I think both kinds of trust are important, and both are something I strive for more than something I have. I'm very consciously trying to leave alone any sentence that does the job and does it well, and I suspect you know just how painful that is. One thing that's helped me in that respect is the distance between me and my last book; reading it now, I'm happy with how it turned out, even if I'm equally sure I would have done some things differently were I writing that story now. But the trust I wrote about is more an ideal than something I've truly achieved. I plan to keep on faking that trust and telling the evil editor in my head to shut the hell up until we see where it takes us. The proof will be in the final product.

Jennifer Jackson said...

Yay for Kat! I hope she likes it because I'm looking forward to reading it.

Chris said...

You and me both, Jennifer. Of course, then I get to send it off to you and walk around with the cold sweats all over again...