Thinking about writing and editing (plus excerpt!)

I have finally returned to editing my novel. It is isn’t that I didn’t have time the last seven or so months; rather, I wasn’t in a good head space to look critically at my writing or to think creatively. And editing really requires a lot of a writer. Along those lines, I couldn’t really think academically either. I was so mired in my own misery and being made to feel inadequate in one part of my life had permeated the rest of it. Now that that part is gone, the metaphorical weight lifted, I returning to all forms of writing with renewed vigor, albeit slowly so.

Now that I’m thinking about writing again, my mind and fingers are still kind of all over the place, perhaps from being out of practice. For example, I thought about writing an article – of the op-ed variety not academic – about anti-Semitism in America, about being my kind of Jewish, about what it all means today. I even started it. While I haven’t necessarily “written” anything for my newest venture, I have begun the painstaking research process and read half a dozen important articles and found many more. I find the search part of research truly fun. I’m going to the university library next week to look at some books; yes, I’m already looking forward to that evening.

But I really should focus on editing The Beauty Still Left because the agent that was interested in it gave me a lot of good edits and notes and I want to remember them all. Before I send it back or to anyone else, I need to take all of them into consideration. The primary points: More action, more relationship development, and more intrigue/mystery. The best parts take place in the past through flash backs–that does not make a successful story. I’m still trying to figure out how to best make the flashback scenes so they don’t feel like “telling”. I’ve got some great mystery started that needs to be woven throughout. And I think I have started making the brother-sister relationship a little more realistic by making the characters more fleshed out (and also more realistic, less “perfect” and easily liked). All-in-all, given a little time, I can do it. I enjoy a good bit of editing, after all.

Sample of the mystery introduced in the first chapter:

Johann turned his head sharply as the engine roared to life. It was the man from the platform. There was something about the lines of his body, even at this distance, that Johann recognized. He felt the recognition in his bones. And yet it wasn’t possible, not really. Johann shook his head and when he looked again, the ghost had gone. He fixed a smile on his sister, comforted. That man was dead.

And a little later, some more mystery and a little of the brother-sister exploration:

Johann looked around the village as they meandered. But Analiese could tell that it wasn’t at all like someone taking in and admiring a new place, and it was a quaint English village worthy of admiration. Rather, he looked around with a vague air of suspicion. Johann was inspecting it. She couldn’t say what he expected to find, what he feared might jump out at him from inside Reginald’s Butcher Shop or Mrs. Dobson’s tiny haberdashery, but Analiese sensed his wariness. His open, vaguely friendly manner with her was a façade. His eyes darted and his body was coiled tight. It made her jumpy, too.

Not ten seconds later, she knew that he thought he recognized someone. Johann stiffened beside her as a man came out of the pub, stumbling over the small entry step. He relaxed a moment later as the man straightened up and his face became visible in the sunlight. Analiese scrutinized the stranger, judging him slightly for his behavior but seeing nothing suspicious about him. He was slight of stature with dark hair, lank but just shy of greasy, and a yellow cast to his skin. He looked unwell, but harmless. Most likely a drinking problem, she thought with a nose wrinkle. Then Analiese turned the full force of her scrutiny on Johann who was asking her an inane question about the village population.

“Oh, eight hundred or so,” she answered readily. “If you include the farms around.”

Johann looked around as though trying to fit eight hundred people onto the high street and widened his eyes. “Really.”

“Oh yes. You’ll see at the Harvest Festival,” she said. Thinking of the festival chased away any curiosity about her brother’s reaction to the strange man. She looked forward to it every year. There was nothing of fear or sadness to the festival, even during the War. For one day every year, the people got together to pretend their worries didn’t exist at all. Analiese was a great pretender.

“The Harvest Festival?” he asked. Johann often repeated a portion of what she said, inviting her to clarify and expand on it. She always accepted the invitation.

“Food and drink and games. You know,” she said, because weren’t all festivals the same. He looked skeptical, but surely he remembered festivals. “We always make an appearance. It’s fun, I promise,” she assured him. He shook his head in what could be agreement. “Here!” she announced and dragged him under a ridiculous pink awning.

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