Revising Leah

November 28, 2008

Sick For the Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:12 pm
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Yesterday, I came down with a cold (or maybe a small case of the flu). After 24 hours, a sore throat and achy joints are the only symptoms.

That hasn’t slowed down my reading, though. Friday is a big day in that I’ve got a 15-page chapter to read. The weekend will be easy with only about 10 pages combined for the next two days. One of the nice things about reading the chapters set during Thanksgiving week during the real Thanksgiving week is that I can do some fact checking. In today’s chapter, Mr. Nells spends most of the day watching college football on TV, so today I was able to see what time the football games start and whether that corresponds with what I’ve written. (It does.)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m practically finished with this revising project. As I read, I continue to make a few little changes in each chapter, but I’ve noticed that only about half of the changes I make are necessary corrections. The rest of the changes are changes that really aren’t absolutely necessary: just rephrasing a sentence differently or swapping out one word for another word — changes that really aren’t necessary. For example, at the end of chapter 21, I rephrased this sentence

Grandmother and granddaughter worked in silence for a few minutes, and then Grandma whispered, without glancing up from the pot she was scrubbing . . .

so that it read

Grandmother and granddaughter worked in silence for a few minutes, and then Grandma whispered, without looking away from the pot she was scrubbing . . .

I made this change because I use the word “glancing” again at the start of the next paragraph, and I didn’t like that repetition. But would the first time reader of this passage even notice the repetition? Probably not. And since about half of all the changes that I’m making at this point are like that one, I’ve clearly reached a tipping point where the changes I’m making are no longer improving the story.

As I like to say, there’s no such thing as a finished draft. But there is a point where one has to put the draft aside and say, “It’s done.” I’ve reached that point in this revision cycle.


November 25, 2008

Joining Leah For Thanksgiving Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:24 am
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As I suggested in my last post, I’ve been spending these final days of November re-reading chapters 15-24 because those chapters are set during the last week of November. It’s a fun way to read the story (even though it does slow my reading down quite a bit).

On Sunday, I even managed to time my reading so that it corresponded (partly) with the time in the story. Chapter 16 begins at exactly one o’clock in the afternoon, and that was exactly when I started reading the chapter. That was pretty cool.

I can’t do that with every chapter, of course, but I am reading the chapters on the appropriate days. Today is Tuesday, so I’m reading chapters 18 and 19 which are set on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

I’m still not seeing any big problems with the story — nothing I need to revise. During my last read-through of these last 8 or 9 chapters, I did notice some possible instances of needless repetition, but I’ve been watching for that during this read-through and I haven’t seen a problem.

June 17, 2008

The Tyranny of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:32 pm
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The other day, I mentioned that chapter 17 is the longest chapter in the novel. The second longest is (or was) chapter 18, at about 20 pages long. But while I wasn’t able to break chapter 17 down any further than it already is, I found that chapter 18 had a formal break in the narrative about halfway through the chapter. Converting that narrative break into a chapter break was very easy, so I’m now back to a total of 25 chapters for the novel.

The more significant problem that chapter 18 (and now 19, too) poses for me is the problem that I first described a few weeks ago; namely, that I find myself with an extra day during the week of Thanksgiving. As I explained in that earlier post, in the 1996 draft of the novel, Leah’s history group delivers their presentation on Tuesday. The problem is that this seems to leave a lot of unnecessary repetition between Monday and Tuesday. Leah spends most of Monday worrying about the possibility that she and her group might be selected to present their projects on Monday. When that doesn’t happen, she experiences a reprieve Monday evening, but on Tuesday, the anxiety returns. My problem is that I don’t want to just write “Leah was worried” over and over again.

The ideal solution would be to revise the plot so that Leah’s group is selected on Monday. Believe me, I tried to make this work, but no matter how I tried to revise the schedule of events for the last third of the novel, I’m stuck with an extra day (that is to say, if the presentation is delivered on Tuesday, then Monday is the extra day; If the presentation is delivered on Monday, then Tuesday or Wednesday is the extra day). The reason is because Leah’s presentation is due the week of Thanksgiving, and that holiday plays an important role in the final chapters of the book. If it were possible for me to move Thanksgiving Day from Thursday to Wednesday, then that would solve all my problems and eliminate the extra day. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day ALWAYS comes on a Thursday (it’s like trying to move Easter to a Wednesday), so that day is set in stone. Thus, all of the events that occur that week must be scheduled around the fact that Thanksgiving occurs on a Thursday, and this is why an extra day keeps popping up for me earlier in the week.

So, I guess what I have to do is leave the presentation on Tuesday, but as I revise chapters 18 and 19, I’m trying to eliminate or minimize as much of the needless repetition as I possibly can. Ultimately, I’m afraid that the schedule of events for the early part of the Thanksgiving week will continue to be a weakness in the overall plot.

Otherwise, I find that I haven’t had many problems with the plot. Oh, my novel has problems, but plot really isn’t one of them.

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