Absence Makes the Heart

heart I’ve been too long absent from my personal blog site, http://sharonboninpratt.wordpress.com/ having spent the last two months making final edits on two of my three adult novels. The activity doesn’t account for all of my lengthy absence, but does excuse much of it. A personal life with job and other family obligations (read problems) has taken over most of 2015, making it an unproductive year at Ink Flare. Still, it has not been a waste.

Absence makes the heart – you know the rest of the well-worn maxim. I’m not sure if anyone misses me at my blog, but the work I’ve done on my books will move me forward in pursuit of publication. It had been a very long time since I’d looked at the first two books, as I’ve worked on the third for the past three years. And a funny thing happened on the way to prepping for book-in-print stage – there were lots of mistakes, weepy phrases, repetitive words, boring filters, mixed metaphors, vapid words, and the most common of my mistakes: the word “that,” sometimes written more than once in a sentence. Ugh! You know that you must edit with a sharp knife when what you’ve written comes across as more clumsy than that which you remember. (Please laugh. OK, maybe chuckle. Grin?)

I’ve edited my books so often, some sections are memorized. I’d even memorized a few parts I’d already excised. Also discovered I’d forgotten some minor characters, or at least, certain traits I should know about them. What’s that guy’s name again?

My great discovery proved what I’ve long said must be done about one’s own writing: take lots of notes and read all your work out loud. Notes make it easier to check back about details: what a person looks like, how you chose to spell a name, when an important event was introduced, the dates of births, marriages, and deaths, etc. Reading aloud points out the clumsiness of one’s writing, inconsistent verb tense or points of view, and gaps in the story arc. It helps you tighten the story because no one wants to read a loose bag of words. No one will publish it.

I scrapped about 2500 words to my first book, but also added about 600, making incidents better realized and motivations more likely.

There is another thing I learned during this round of editing: I’d forgotten so much, my stories read like new to me. My own novels were my summer beach reads, absorbing my attention. I was able to track the build up of suspense, character development, plot elements, and chronology of events.

My favorite revelation has me convinced I should continue on this challenging course of writing, eventually seeking agents and editors. I like my books. They are works of passion but also of intellect. My protagonists are too flawed to approach sainthood; my antagonists have a nugget of humanity. The problems are complex and don’t offer ready solutions; the resolutions are satisfying but incomplete, leaving room for future and for wonder. Subplots are engaging and themes hint at underlying psychological confusion. In short, I like the books I write. They are similar in kind to the books I enjoy reading.

May your summer prove a wealth of opportunity to write and edit your works in progress. May you be stimulated by your writing. And may any absence from your writing make your heart grow fonder of this journey, whether avocation or occupation. At least, may your journey lead to new adventures, all of them exciting and worthy of your time.

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4 thoughts on “Absence Makes the Heart

  1. I love that you enjoyed your own books after having been away from them for a while. No better way to understand that you’ve written exactly as you wanted to. Twere I you, I’d get those babies out to agents immediately!

  2. I was going to say the same thing as Jacqui did — it’s so good that you liked your books! I find while I’m writing things I sometimes get so frustrated by “The Process” that I lose sight of what I liked in the piece in the first place. Then, after throwing numerous tantrums and setting the thing aside for a while, I can come back to it and say, “wow, that wasn’t so bad after all…”.

    I hope the feeling continues and good luck with your next steps!

  3. That’s the advantage of letting it sit idle for a while – you’ll remember your basic story but not your approach, your voice. But beware – sometimes it works the other way. An earlier piece may show itself as shallow or silly. I’ve had that happen too, though not with the 3 books about which I care the most.
    Thank you for the good wishes, Rob.

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