Kittie Howard

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

An Amazing Edit!

Prior to our North Carolina move, I smoothed out the draft for the next book in the Remy Broussard series. A week later, I returned to the manuscript and wasn't happy with it. The excitement I'd felt at having gotten it right disappeared into furrowed brows. Something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The elusive it, that all-inclusive, third person, singular pronoun, had reared its squishy head.

Time passed.

Like a shimmering bowl of Jello that turns into a gooey mess when one attempts to hold the gelatin, it eluded me.

More time passed. But that was okay because the up-coming move meant I had better things to do than worry about it, which I continued to do, of course, deep-down, where I thought the now-personified it wouldn't dare to go.


Fortunately, life intervened.

I ran into Lynn at the mall, seriously. My forty-something, somewhat recently divorced friend was on her lunch break and had to get back to work. I was headed downstairs to catch the Metro when we rounded the same corner. After laughing about how we'd bumped into each other, we decided to have lunch the following week and get caught up.

As much as I tried to leave it at home, the interloper tagged along. "Send me a copy of your manuscript, and I'll have a look," Lynn offered.

I demurred. Even though she was "fresh eyes," Lynn was an in-house (salaried) attorney for a major corporation, not an editor, which is what the manuscript needed.

She persisted.

Two days later, I e-mailed Karen with my thanks and the manuscript attached.

She replied two days later from the coast of Spain, where she and Current Boyfriend had impulsively decided to go for a long weekend.

I shrugged both of them off and returned to packing boxes, unable to stuff it into one.

Two weeks later, I opened Lynn's e-mail with a jaundiced eye, rolled my eyes when I read her rushed note about the edited manuscript attached, only to have my eyes pop when I saw what she'd sent: a detailed line-by-line edit, along with comprehensive summaries of story elements, overviews and suggestions.

Lynn had compartmentalized her flighty love life and zeroed in on my manuscript with her considerable legal skills as if she were preparing a brief.

True to what I'd requested, she'd by-passed faint praise -- addictive "love this" comments or exaggerated praise writers love but which can enable insecurities -- for comments about what worked and what didn't work and why. Hallelujah!

What had been eluding me now jumped out at me when I re-read the manuscript: One of my adolescent characters was a bit too young.

Yes, of course, duh!

But a deeper problem lurked. Lynn, from Pennsylvania, had had difficulties believing a Southern woman (a character's mother) could be strong and decisive. "Shouldn't a Southern woman be more submissive to her husband?" she'd commented.

Huh? Not the women I'd grown up with and known in South Louisiana. Or anyone else's mother, for that mater.

Whoa! What the reader believed -- whether perceived or not -- had to be taken into account.

So I asked three women who'd spent little or no time in the South to read my manuscript. One of the three caught the age problem. All three commented that a Southern woman should be more submissive.

When I asked the three to elaborate on their images of Southern women, replies included "downtrodden" and "uneducated." Wow, heavy stuff.

But characters are creations who come to life in an imagined environment in a plausible setting. One of my challenges is to return to my character and develop her more fully. She needs to interact with historical accuracy for the times but in a believable manner so that her actions don't break the reader's esthetic distance.

For the most part, I'm going to grapple with this and other manuscript issues on Facebook.

While this blog will occasionally have posts about writing milestones, the blog's main focus will be on Louisiana stories and points of interest -- what got me into blogging in the first place.

In other words, it's time for a bit of tinkering. If you'd like to join be on FB and share my manuscript's journey -- with in-put greatly appreciated -- I'm here.

My next blog post will be about Pikeville, North Carolina. There's no set date. I'm as erratic and incorrigible as ever. :)

About the A-Z Challenge: I've revealed "Q is for Quebec." Since no one guessed where in the world we're going that begins with "Z", the location will remain a secret (unless someone guesses it correctly later).

In the meantime, let's move on to "X". Can you guess where we're going that begins with "X?"

Postscript: About that exciting Super Bowl game: One second, Mr. H., a serious Patriots fan (and member of the Red Sox Nation), sat slumped in his chair, as sad as sad could be; the next moment, his arms shot up as he shouted "YES," as happy as happy could be. For me, his reaction was a priceless, forever memory.