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Searching to avoid the bobble-head

When I first started writing, I began by using a typewriter. I don’t know why, but I have never been a pencil-to-paper sort of writer. One of my writer friends once shared how the scratching of her pencil against paper somehow stimulated her creative process. I would call her weird, but then again I feel the same about my fingers typing across a keyboard. The methodical clicking of the keys, the feel of them against my hand…it somehow oils the wheels turning in my mind.

I finished my fourth novel last week. This week, I spent most of my time going through a first edit. I did this a little different. Typically, I go through the manuscript by myself before giving it to my readers. However, I questioned the logic of a piece of the plot. It wasn’t enough to stop my creative process and finish the book, but it was enough to make me know I needed an outside opinion. Therefore, the first edit and the first read coincided. It pressured me forward to finish the book, but it skipped me going through to make sure the prose sounded okay. That really only effected one chapter, but still showed the value of reading through a piece first.

Anyway, as I was editing, I began thinking about that typewriter. If I made a mistake…even an out of place comma, I would have to retype the entire page. And if entire paragraphs needed to be moved…forget it. I would really weigh how important that change was. Did it warrant the hours spent rearranging and retyping. I think back to writers like Jane Austin and Charles Dickens. How did they deal with edits? More importantly, my computer has this awesome tool called “search.” For example, I discovered the excessive amounts of nodding, shaking of heads and taking deep breaths. I think it was one of those easy things placed in the heat of creativity to break the dialogue but still let me continue with the thought. The result was bobble-head characters with breathing issues. Instead of searching hours upon hours for these instances, I could search them.

Better yet, because I was searching for the same thing in the same setting, I was able to diversify my description. I pushed my prose and challenged myself on how to best strengthen the scene. I feel like I learned a lot through the process. I always feel my greatest growth comes from editing. I have been blessed with people who will tell me when something is lacking…or when my characters are bobble-heads. Then, I set about fixing the problem. I learn so much more about myself as a writer that way. I learn how to avoid the same mistakes in the future. I would recommend self editing to any writer looking to improve….but just not as a last stop. There’s too much I can miss when I know what was supposed to be on the page!