Friday, July 18, 2014

UNWORTHY EDITING

My editor just sent back his annotated version of my upcoming novel Life Unworthy.  So now the rewrites and editing begin.

When I first thought about writing, the prospect of having to rewrite and edit books over and over sounded so dull and miserable it kept me from even starting up a book at all.  The image of going over the same thing again and again to find mistakes just sounded hellish and I wanted no part of it.

Yet, once I sat down and wrote a book and started editing, I found that I didn't mind it at all.  In fact it was kind of fun to re read and fix bits of the story, add in what was missing, trim some parts out, and overall improve my work.  This surprised me, but it was at least a welcome and pleasant surprise.
So here goes another book, and by now I'm getting pretty good at editing, although I have a long ways to go before I'm truly in command of grammar and language.

As work goes on, I'll update it in this post, with any thoughts and oddities that come up, although I don't want it to be a spoiler post.  I'll be trying not to give much away not out of fear of having my work stolen, but because I want the book to be an interesting unexpected read.

Life Unworthy is a supernatural thriller set in WW2 Krakow under Nazi occupation.  The story centers around a girl, a werewolf, and the Nazis they face.  It started with a simple idea: what if in one of the showers in Birkenau, there was a werewolf inside?  From there it expanded into a hunt for the creature by the Nazis for a variety of reasons and ultimately an examination of the nature of evil hopefully told in an entertaining, at least somewhat frightening and suspenseful manner.

So here we go...

-So far the book is pretty clean, but I did run into a bit of a timing sequence.  Part of the problem is that I wrote this book over about 8 years time, and as a result I didn't always remember things exactly.  Another concern is that I have Rudolph Hess speaking to someone and by March/April of 1942 he'd been captured in Ireland.  So I had to replace him with Martin Bormann, who has a more monstrous personality and fits what I wanted out of that character better anyway.

-My public school education betrays me again.  I'm having a bit of problems with past participle and other more complex grammatical issues.  For the most part I do well but there are times when I use "was" instead of "had been" and so on.  There are fewer this book than previous ones but still more than I wish.

-One of the toughest things when editing is to not just get pulled into the story.  What I meant to say flows in my head rather than what is actually typed, and while I gave it several months sitting fallow to step back from the book, my memory is such that its still quite fresh in my head.  I have to concentrate line by line to examine them specifically rather than read.

 -Twelve chapters in, the flow is not as disjointed as I feared while writing.  I've only had to do scant rewriting, to address a time line issue and some name changes.  At first one of the characters I had unable to speak German, but later he's fluent in it and his background story explains why so I have had to alter a few lines to fit that.  The little things you miss.

-One of the challenges in this kind of book is writing some of the characters well.  In a book filled with Nazis, it is a temptation to turn each of them into a cartoon monster, a black and horrible figure of madness and evil.  But each had his own motivations, and not all Nazis were necessarily monsters: Oskar Schnidler, for example, was a member of the Nazi Party.  My challenge is to make each of them interesting, plausible, and complex bad guys, not just thugs and brutes.  But that means they have to be at least at some level likeable and even admirable, if ultimately awful.

-Life Unworthy doesn't really have a main character, but the closest thing is a Polish woman named Aniela.  She isn't what one would call the typical "strong woman" character, in fact she's wracked by fear that her gypsy ancestry will be found out and her whole family will be dragged off to a camp by the Nazis.  She's my hook to the reader, to give them a feel as to what I understand and believe the times and life in Krakow in 1942 was like.  At the same time, because she's not bold and fearless, because she is so driven by passions and dread, I suspect some readers and reviewers might consider her a hapless heroine.  Yet she's the axle around which the entire story revolves, and all that comes about for good in the book is through and because of her quiet courage in the midst of raw terror.  Its a fine line to walk, but I hope I've done it well.

-I've gotten to one of my favorite parts of the book; the werewolf's story of how he became one.  Its a story within a story, a device I've always liked.  Once edited and ready to go, I intend to release it as a free download for people, to get a feel for the writing and a teaser for the book.  It spans several tumultuous decades over the turn of the century and through WWI, and its an attempt to show what it would be like to find yourself in this situation and seek a way out in the modern era.