Over the course of last week I worked through the editorial notes that I’d received from my publisher on The Beholder. Having spent months working on the novel (and thus becoming somewhat snowblind to it), it’s really important to receive a fresh perspective from highly skilled people such as my editors, and their suggestions prompted me to re-evaluate certain elements of the story to ensure that it was as honed as possible.
As previously explained, the notes were mostly concerned with minor character details, such as ensuring that dialogue was consistent, reinforcing motivation, or stamping out any clichés, along with a request to cut back on the number of musical references that I’d shoe-horned in. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big music fan and I get a real kick out mentioning my favourite bands in my novels, but it’s fair to say that my enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of me. I don’t just do it for fun though - I use music to help set the scene, as it can provide an insight into a character’s thoughts or emotions, and it can give the reader a sense of the familiar to help ground the plot in reality. I try to use a mix of instantly recognisable bands and some that are less well known, as in this way I feel that I’m doing my bit in bringing a wider public audience to some deserving acts! Anyhow, just for the record, tracks from the following bands no longer appear in the Beholder: Pearl Jam, Cage The Elephant, Alkaline Trio.
One of the most interesting parts of the re-draft was the final read through. As I hadn’t looked at the novel for a few weeks I was able to come to it relatively fresh and identify those paragraphs where I’d gone overboard on description. This is something that I have a tendency to do in the first draft, mainly because it’s how I write, but I also think it’s psychological. When I first set out to write a book I know that I need to have somewhere in the region of 90,000 words on paper by the time I get to the end. Imagine how I’d feel if I put in the last full stop to find that the book had fallen say ten thousand words short, as at that stage it’s much harder to add stuff than take it away. So for this reason I tend to use a few more words than I need when I write the first draft, as I subconsciously try to avoid the doomsday scenario! In the course of the read through, I managed to cut almost 3,000 words from the prose (mostly just odd words or the occasional sentence – never as much as a paragraph), which has helped make The Beholder a much pacier read as a result.
What’s Steve been listening to this week?
Sam’s Town – by The Killers
Waterloo To Anywhere – by Dirty Pretty Things
Carnavas – by Silversun Pickups