Thursday, 27 November 2008

A Change of Face: Penny Dolan

Most of my writing work just now is a trudge through a long revision, supposedly changing sections from present tense to past. This last week, it’s felt like wading through past sell-by-date treacle, probably because I’m anxious.

Small gremlins keep nudging up, demanding my attention. Is that a miniature blip in the plot? Or a chasm nobody has noticed yet? Is that description almost the same as the last? And the one before? Are there too many "candles glimmering"? Too many "justs", and "sighs", and "grins"? Does this day have two afternoons? Is that name really the right one for the character, or just one I’ve got used to using? Behind the plodding task beats that awful thought: isn’t this all just utter rubbish anyhow?

Usually I enjoy revision. I like the editing, cutting and balancing of the language, the Sherlockian relief when you spot something that is just plain wrong, and know it can still be corrected. But this trek had taken me to a point of being blind to the writing.

So, having reached a useful midway stage, I did the magic thing, the trick you can’t use too often. I changed the manuscript’s entire font, from Arial to Palatino, if you must know. Suddenly, phrases and lines have shifted in relation to one another, and hidden patterns have become clear. Yes, I may actually be back in control again.

I spot two “ups” really sitting close together – and there on the first worked over page! The shame! How come I didn’t even notice them before? But now I have, and somehow my spirits are lifted. On I go . . .

4 comments:

Mary Hoffman said...

Penny, how timely! I'm expecting the copy edits on a big novel next week (just in time to bugger up Christmas) and I shall try changing the font to make sure I pick up odd anomalies.

Thank you!

bookwitch said...

Some days do have several afternoons I find.

Lucy Coats said...

I shall file this idea in my 'what to do when the edit starts merging into a scary black blob' file. More thanks from me!

Penny Dolan said...

Mary and Lucy, glad the suggestion was useful to you all too, and thanks to whoever I heard it from. The "new look" of the thing has cheered me up immensely.

Bookwitch, that may often be true, but NOT in books . . .