Friday, July 14, 2023

Tripping up on the tropes!



 It’s a innocuous word, rather pleasant on the lips. A rather businesslike work. No nonsense so let’s get on with it kind of word.

And it strikes fear and trepidation into the heart of any writer.

 Being edited by A N Other is a necessary and useful process, different brains coming together to drive the novel onto  better place, trying to mould the work of fiction onto the story it was supposed to be in the first place; the book on the page never match the book in the writer’s head- well not at first.

 The external editor often takes the place of the reader, pointing out the vast leaps of logic and belief expected of them,  and things that are just wrong.

So ( there’s one of my tropes  right there – starting  a sentence with so), I digress. 

What about the first editorial pass  that the writer does themselves, that really awful one where the writer thinks ‘ Did I really write this complete s**t? Or, I thought I had a written a good bit somewhere but now I can’t find it.

But ( another trope there) nobody can edit a blank sheet of paper. I’m looking at 300 sheets of typed paper and so far, nothing makes sense. At all. I can see there’s something good in there- this is book seventeen and I’ve ridden ( Written?) this rodeo before. The first outpouring of badly typed words,  a 90 000 word outline,  with the sections basically in the right place. Then is the good bit, the second pass that I like to think of as colouring in, characters speak to me and locations  reveal themselves.

Then comes the third. The first proper edit.

I reduce  my word count by removing the words just and so. This helps a lot.

I then have to go through and check my propensity to start names with C. No idea how Caplan and Craigo got posted To Cronchie, I think Costello sent them.  You get the idea.  I’m not alone in this, my pal  has  the same issue with S. Another pal, has too many words beginning with F but that’s a different type of book.

To keep a complex plot in order, I tend to write ‘This day’ then ‘The next day’. And that works well for me, until I make something happen at midnight and I then ( without fail) jump a whole 24 hours. I once wrote a book with no Wednesday and it got quite far in the editorial process before anybody noticed.

And I, on that first run, describe everybody by their hair. I have no idea why I do this. Now, on that same first run I type the hair in capitals so I can easily find it. And I then change the hair of that character day by day, trying different hairstyles on them. Bald men need  not fear in my novels,  by the next chapter they will have a full head of hair.

And tides.  I always get tidal times wrong. One page they are rolling in, the next page ( five minutes later) they are receding. Don’t ask. That’s a huge issue  with a setting like Scotland, but the  flip side of that is that I can write any kind if weather and it will be correct. All you need to do is wait.  The editorial red pen appears down the side, it was raining on page 68. Indeed it was, and we have brilliant sunshine on page  72. Why not?

Often Craigo drives  out in his Hillix, taking Caplan with him. But when they get to return Caplan is driving her Duster and Craigo is looking at a map on the passenger seat.  The editorial red pen then comes in – why is Craigo not sitting in the passenger seat reading the map, would that not be more comfortable for all concerned?

In my defence I write for a day. I can do  4000 words in a day. Then I might not get back to it for another ten days. And then, ‘cause I’m easily bored, I start a new section with no idea what has been happening before.

(And I can’t type. I use one finger and end up with bad RSI.)

 But overall,  on  that second and third ‘pass’ I can make it fit.  That’s what editing is for. Telling the story to myself.

 And if I get stuck I can always made the monkeys appear.  They’ll sort it out.


The new book. ....




  1. Caro, I can't even tell you how much I love this post. The wit AND your process, both. Can identify with so much, in fact, just about everything...Can't wait to read the new one.

  2. As someone toiling through editing a finished draft (and getting more and more lost as I divert from the original intention), it's reassuring to know that even the best struggle with this process. It is the mark of a great writer (or rewriter) that you keep pulling it together (and have done seventeen times).

    I think they call it a body of 'work' because although inspiration is the source, perspiration is what gets it done.

  3. You always make me laugh, even if these days blogspot only allows me to do so anonymously. --Jeff