Thursday, June 15, 2017

5 Ways I Improved PATH INTO DARKNESS at the Last Minute

By Lisa Alber

I just finished the final, FINAL nit-piks for PATH INTO DARKNESS, coming out in August. Talk about under the wire! The book is at the printer as I write this post. Yay! I'm so grateful for the chance to provide a detailed final proofread, and then quickly proofread my proofread for a sanity check on my final changes. (And, yes, I found four more wee, itty, bitty, teeny, tiny typos ... It could never end, seriously.)

It's amazing how you can always improve a story. I didn't change big things, and some would argue that small changes like the ones I performed couldn't matter that much to the overall reader experience ...

That might be true, because the book has been out in the world as an advanced reader copy for awhile now -- advanced readers seem to be enjoying the story. But still. I'm a proponent of subtle changes for overall improvement in my storytelling. No one else may care. But I do. (But then, you gotta stop. JUST. STOP. after awhile. Let the beast go. Be free, fledgling novel!) 

So, yeah, I put on my nit-pik hat, and this is what I came up with besides leftover typos and awkward word choices and grammatical bloopers:

1. Murkiness factor. Mysteries work because they are purposefully murky until the end of the story. I deleted and adjusted dialog that was too spot-on, i.e. dialogue in which one character was talking with too much clarity. I thought, Wow, that's certainly shining too much of a light on such-and-such character or event or bit of information. In my own writer self-talk, I call this toning it the hell down. :-)

2. Subtle consistency errors. The consistency errors I fixed had to do with proper setup for events that come toward the end of the novel. True, most readers probably won't catch these things, but there is an overall effect as one scene builds on another and on another, and you get to know the characters. Readers are left with feelings about the characters without knowing why all the time. The point for me is not to come out of left field all of sudden at the end of the novel.

3. Lingo adjustments. My novels are set in Ireland, so I try to be conscience of using the correct vernacular. I'm sure I don't catch everything, but, for example, in my final proofread, I changed "steal" to "pinch," "rent" to "let," and "mom" to "mum."

4. Improve the last chapter. I have my wonderful editor, Nicole, to thank for this one. She had made some edits to the final chapter with a passing comment that made me realize that I'd floated off course with one of my subplots. Just a little, but it was enough to bug me. The last chapter didn't hang right. This was with Danny, my detective, having a heartfelt moment with his kids. The final moment, the final decision he's making in this story. And it's a big decision. So, yeah, I adjusted that chapter, and went back and employed number two above.

5. Simplified backstory aspects from the previous novels. One of my eternal questions as a writer of a series is how much of the previous novels' backstories to include in the current novel. I want my novels to standalone as much as possible. For me, this means NOT dumping all the details in from previous novels. I don't like info dumps. That's just me. I prefer to simply not mention past events or background character details that aren't germaine to the current story. For example, the fact that Danny has a dead daughter from years back didn't need to be mentioned -- mentioning this daughter added more question marks than it clarified Danny's character.

So now, having gone through this process, I can finally say that I've done all that I can possibly do to create the best book I'm capable of at this moment in time. Whew!

How forgiving of typos are you when you read novels? (Me, I'm very forgiving now; before writing novels I used to be a hard ass.)


June Lorraine Roberts said...

I'm so with you on the info dump - not needed!

Lisa Alber said...

It's so tricky at times in series too. I often need outside readers to let me know when I've strayed into providing too much backstory that's not germaine.