Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Reading, Part I

So, on Friday I pulled my novel out of its cabinet. It blinked its eyes and tried to scurry back into the dark, but I held firm to the binder and dragged it out onto the bright, sunny porch (we had no power). I sat  on the porch with a cup of coffee, a glass of water, a pen, a pencil and a notepad, opened the book and began to read.
I really don’t know how I’m supposed to do this. Part of me wanted to just read it straight through, as if I’d picked it up in a bookstore or at the library or something. Forget the mistakes in grammar, the extra spaces, the misspellings, let’s worry about the meta-things: voice, story, characterization. The rest of it can wait for another read through.
Of course I couldn’t do it that way. I was afraid that if I noticed something and glossed it over in the name of finishing the read, I might not remember what bothered me and I might not see it again. Notes went in margins, bigger thoughts went in the notepad. By the end of the day I was on page 152 out of 317 with seven double-sided pages of notes (Note to self: write neater). Not a bad day’s work.
So, how do I feel about it?
It’s not as bad as I feared, but not as good as I want it to be.
I didn’t cringe while reading it. I didn’t feel embarrassed, didn’t have any WTF? moments. I didn’t want to throw the book into the road or feed the pages to my neighbor’s cows (they probably wouldn’t eat it, but my daughter has a friend who has goats. They would definitely eat it.) or stuff them in the fireplace. I know it could be better, and I hope I can make it so.
A few things I’ve noticed in this process so far:
*The word ‘that’ is one of those invisible words that is easy to cut. I think one of the first things I’m going to do when I work on the document is do a find/replace search for ‘that’. Some will have to stay, but most can probably go. Sorry, old friend, you’re just not needed.
*I can often tell where I started writing for the day. There are a few sentences (usually at the beginning of chapters) where I can see that I was feeling around, like spider on the end of a branch, trying to catch hold of the words, the rhythm, the story, the voice. There’s a tentativeness to the words and sentences; it usually only lasts a line or two before I get it. I wonder if I can do some kind of warm-up exercise in the future.
*I’ve been able to spot cases of repetition, in terms of words and passages. I was sometimes aware, while writing, that I’d already written a similar passage elsewhere (I knew I had, but I couldn’t always find it). On the read-through, I’ve been able to find them. ‘See page 97’ I note in the margin. In my notepad I write ‘p. 97, p. 115, repeat. One must go.’ The good thing is cutting some of this will make room for expanding some other places.
I was afraid to begin this process, but so far it’s been fun. I hope I that I (Look! Another one!) will still think so when I finish the read-through (possibly by the end of today). So I will sign of for today, still doubting, but hopeful.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Updates

For announcements, alerts and special offers, subscribe to our emails.  Please note, you will have to confirm your subscription through an email to the address you provide.

Follow Jeff O'Handley

Jeff O'Handley ©2024 - All Rights Reserved.