Reviewing Act I of travel fantasy novel

Varanasi, India - Assi Ghat - Photo by naquib -
Varanasi, India - Assi Ghat - Photo by naquib -

The not-bad and the suck

“Hey, that’s not bad!”

“What the hell was that supposed to be?”

That is the agony and the ecstasy of reading your own book. I’m most of the way through reviewing Act I of my travel fantasy novel. The experience has been… an experience. It’s going well though. I like more than I thought I would: the characters, their dynamic, the ever-present, woven-through theme of character is destiny.

And there are things that I can’t wait to fix.

Not yet, though.

First the read-through

The hardest thing about reading through Act I? Not marking it up. My red pen calls to me, but I’m not getting it out. I won’t even let myself look at it yet. This initial read-through is not about editing. It’s only about reading.

No matter what errors or typos I see, no matter what plot holes or notes I need to deal with, there is no editing yet. There is only reading.

There will be lots of editing though

My intent is to spiff up Act I a bit, not so it’s sparkling, flawless and ready for typesetting, but more so that I feel all is in place for the drafting of Act II. I want to deal with smaller stuff in Act I while it’s still fresh in my head. Then, once on to Act II, I’ll know that I’ve got things set up well. Hopefully, this will even make editing easier later on.

Death to adverbs and wishy-washy filler crap

My red pen will be coming out soon though, and the pages will run red with fixes and rewrites. Here are some of the flaws that will be in my sights:

  • Adverbs. If it ends with “-ly”, it is suspect, guilty till proven innocent, and subject to immediate deletion and rewrite.
  • Wishy-washy crap. “Kind of,” “although,” “more or less” — these phrases water down impact and separate the reader’s emotions from the story. All this sort of wishy-washy crap will be cut, and all writing strengthened where needed.
  • Any phrasing that somewhat shows, but distances the reader from the story. I’m writing the book in third person (“he ordered more stout,” “she opened the unseen cabinet,” “he smiled and felt the world turn to ash”). That has challenges with showing instead of telling, but it’s also opportunity to present a rich world from the perspectives of varied characters. I need to make sure that the reader is right in the thick of the action, from scene to senses, emotion to thought. Any areas where that needs to be shored up, are getting shored up.

Not bad though

All this said, I’m actually pretty happy with the story so far. The drafting isn’t bad, considering the never-was hack who’s working on it. While reading through Act I, I realized I wanted to keep turning the page. I laughed or grimaced at spots where I’m intending to get a laugh or a grimace.

There’s work to do, but the foundation is solid. This just might wind up a half-decent book.

It’s going to be a damn good book. Now to keep working on it.

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