A Marvellous Rant: The Avengers, A Review

This holiday break, unlike the rest of you who watched “The Last Jedi,” I watched Marvel’s “The Avengers.” To which you say, “You haven’t seen ‘The Avengers’ yet? It came out in 2012! Have you been living under a rock?” And to which I say, “No, I haven’t been living under a rock, I’ve been living in Australia.”

(Honestly, that’s not fair. The “Last Jedi” is out in theatres here too, I’m just too cheap to go. Also, I moved to Australia waaaaay after 2012, so that statement doesn’t even make sense.)

(Wait, that statement’s also waaaaay too mean. I like living in Australia. Melbourne is a bit too big for me, but the wildlife in the surrounding areas is outstanding. Not to mention there’s no snow. No snow. Let me repeat that in case you didn’t catch it: No. Slipping. Snow. And Melbourne is kinda cute and small town-y despite the five million other people, because when you send out your Christmas cards you write “card only” on the envelope to get the cheaper rate and everyone believes you. And when you walk in stores, everyone’s playing 90’s music like the city’s on some kinda time warp, but I like 90’s music so it’s cool.)

But back to “The Avengers.” My husband was really impressed that I took out this movie from the library because the last superhero movie I ever watched by Marvel was “Batman” where the bald guy climbs out of the pit for a million years. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

And then I was like, “Actually, I’ve seen tons of Marvel’s superhero movies. Like that really old one about the guy in the blue tightie whities? The one who my mum thinks is hot? You know, Superman?”

And my husband was like, “That’s not Marvel. A different company made Superman.”

And I was like, “Oh. Wait–what?”

And my husband was like, “But you’ve seen Spiderman, right? That’s Marvel.”

And I was like, “Yeah. Except not Spiderman 3, because I fainted in the movie theatre parking lot before I even got to watch it because I ate too many mangoes.”

Long story.

Anyway, after watching “The Avengers” I had so much burning inside me to say that I figured I might as well write a post about it. Just keep in mind the person writing this post only watched “The Avengers” because she figured she liked superhero movies because she read “Zeroes” cowritten by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti. (Superhero books are different than superhero movies – for one, they actually contain emotions. Ba-dum pshhhhhh.)

Also, keep in mind that the person writing this post was not intimately familiar with the Marvel franchise. She hadn’t even read the Marvel comics, since the comics she likes to read are indie and gay. She didn’t even see Spiderman 3 because she fainted from eating too many mangoes.

Of course, since the internet is filled with reviews from people who are clearly not the target audience of the media they’re reviewing, I expect my review will fit right in.

So without further ado, let’s go!

1) The major problem I had was with the characters.

a) First of all, I had no clue who anyone was. I kinda figured out Captain America because the movie wouldn’t let you forget it, and Black Widow (I’d heard of her before), and the Hulk because he was angry and stuff. But as for the rest, I had no freaking clue. There was jerky dude in the shiny red suit with blue glowy things, Brad Pitt (later I learned he wasn’t actually Brad Pitt) with a hammer, and an arrow throwing guy I was left to assume was Cupid’s older brother. Now, eventually I figured out fake Brad Pitt was Thor. However, nothing informed me as to who red shiny blue glowy dude or Cupid’s older brother were. Their superhero names never were said once in the movie. The back of the DVD informed me that the dude in the red metal suit was Ironman. However Cupid’s older brother’s name was nowhere on the back of the DVD. My husband told me his name was Hawkeye so I’ll have to take his word for it. It would have been nice to learn everyone’s names in some corny suit-up sequence montage in the beginning. It. Was. Not. Clear.

Also, I have no clue where the eye-patch dude fits in. Does he have a super power? Or is his only power navigating his disability in an able-bodied world? If so, that’s admirable, but I had no idea why he was there.

b) I felt no emotional investment in the plot. I didn’t care about the characters. One minor character died and all the heroes were practically crying with emotion. I didn’t feel anything because that guy had five minutes of screen time and I couldn’t remember how he was helping the good guys at all. Eye-patch dude said something about him being a spy, but I never saw dead dude spying so I think I misheard him.

Basically you can’t have six heroes in one movie taking up equal screen time. Because that is six stories and not enough time to develop them. They should have focused on one or two characters and the others could have cameos or something. Then touching scenes can actually be touching.

c) When Thor and Ironman were fighting I didn’t care about who won or lost. I think I was supposed to be like “Oooh will Thor’s hammer kick Ironman’s butt or will Ironman’s blue electric glow dominate Thor’s lighting?” Right, that didn’t happen. And not just because I didn’t know Ironman’s name. The fight reminded me of two little boys playing with their action figures and it was really, really boring. I spent the entire endless scene wondering what the point was. Apart from some homoerotic undertones this scene had nothing going for it. Because frankly, the person who wins, wins because the script writer wrote it as so. And the scriptwriter wrote Captain America breaking them apart and winning which leads me to my next point.

2) The second major problem I had was with the super powers themselves.

a) Captain America. I really hate this guy. I know he’s supposed to fill you with the warm, patriotic feels of American ideals. But even though I’m technically dual citizen American, I grew up in Canada. And let me tell you, the Canadian part of me laughs at Captain America so hard.

Let me create a new superhero for you. Let’s call him Captain Canada. He wears a white suit covered in red maple leaves. And he goes around beating everyone up over the head with club that’s really a super strong taxidermied beaver carcass. And no matter how awesome everyone is, he always wins because Canada knows best. If you think this is ridiculous, you’re right. It is. But it’s no more ridiculous than Captain America.

Now, I’m not saying national pride is bad. In fact, I think that Canada should suit up and kick some dead beaver butt and actually take pride in empowering their citizens to innovate technology and create art, instead of relying on their star spangled neighbour to the south to innovate and create everything for them. However, there is a balance. Captain America is not always right. And when he goes around saying corny punchlines and dominating the battles to save the world, he comes across as uneducated and arrogant.

b) The Incredible Hulk. This super power has issues stemmed in permissive male rage.

Why male rage? Since the morphing form of The Hulk is hyper masculine with enormous muscles and a half-naked body it clearly refers to male qualities. And since the change from man to Hulk only happens when the character gets angry, it is pretty clear it refers to anger issues.

Basically, this character gives the message that as a man, you can try to control your anger but it’s futile. And when you lose control you aren’t responsible because the creature isn’t really you. As long as you’re in Hulk mode you can’t remember anything you did and that’s okay, because when you aren’t in Hulk mode you have the best of intentions and try really hard to stay calm. However, it’s a losing battle. The anger will be expressed and when it’s expressed in an uncontrollable and destructive way that threatens and harms other people, it can save the world. Totally permissive and problematic.

c) The Black Widow. As far as I can tell, her only super power is looking sexy and beating people up. I guess that’s a thing? Her powers to me seem to be more like a fetish than a superpower. Just saying.

3) The third major problem I had was with the villain, Loki. He just looked goofy and didn’t seem threatening at all. I think his smile was supposed to terrify me and feel me with unease or be creepy at least. It just looked ridiculous. And the giant horns on top of his head did nothing to improve this image.

4) Using special effects instead of a plot line. The battles were massive and must have taken a lot of work. However, because I wasn’t invested in the characters I was really, really bored. During the final battle, I actually paused the movie and cooked dinner. When I returned to it, I had no clue what was going on because I wasn’t interested. Even though the saving the world stakes were kind of high, they didn’t feel high because I just didn’t care whether the characters lived or died because they had done nothing to endear themselves to me. No matter how many giant whale space ships they threw into the plot, it couldn’t change the major lack of emotional stakes.

5) The ending. Now I’m going to assume that you (unlike me) haven’t been living under a rock since 2012 and have actually watched this thing. So this next part will contain spoilers. If you don’t want these spoilers, stop reading now.

Still here? Okay. So, you know how the major alien threat was neutralised by Ironman throwing a nuclear bomb through a porthole to blow up an entire alien planet and how the port hole conveniently closes in time so that the US receives none of the fallout?

Well, there is a problem with this.

First, let’s realise that the alien threat really only was shown to be destroying an American city. So, it wasn’t directly threatening the world. It was directly threatening the US. (Okay, okay, the aliens could then spread from the US to the rest of the world, but it’s not really clear that’s their plan. They could just take out the US and call it a day. Basically the immediate the threat and the one we see in the movie is solely American.)

As for the aliens, what kinds of people are these? Well, since Americans have no problem calling actual people aliens, it’s not too much of a stretch to think “Hey, these aliens are a foreign threat. They symbolise people who aren’t American who threaten the US.” Supporting this idea even more is how the aliens were attacking the city. Airships smashing through giant skyscrapers. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now, I’m not negating an American anxiety about terrorism or invaders or whatever. There’s precedent for them to be concerned. However, “The Avengers” has a message. These acts of violence by a few can only be solved by nuking the entire territory belonging to the perpetrators.

And there is a massive problem with that.

We don’t know much about this alien planet. However, we do know that Loki sided with some group of people living on it who had an army. We don’t know if this alien army represented the majority of the people living on this planet. We don’t know if this alien army was a fringe group. We don’t know if there were tons of innocent people living on the planet who had no idea about what their military planned or whether they supported the idea or whether they were under oppressive rule or what. We don’t know.

And apparently we’re not supposed to care.

It doesn’t matter if an entire environment and innocent lives are destroyed as long as the US triumphs and forces the foreign force into submission.

How’s that for an empowering message?

“The Potion Diaries” by Amy Alward

I fell in love with this book the minute the princess of Nova’s love potion turned indigo instead of pink. There’s a lighthearted, whimsical feeling in the details right from the get-go. The princess poisons herself with said indigo potion instead of her crush, and causes a national crisis by falling in love with herself. And now Samantha (Sam) Kemi, an alchemist’s apprentice, is summoned with the rest of the kingdom’s alchemists to compete to find a cure.

Sam has to travel the world to find ingredients for this cure, from the deepest jungles to the highest mountaintops. The world-building in exotic locals and the mythical ingredients from plants to animals always felt well-developed and real. In fact, after reading this book before bed, I sank into a dream full of unusual pink-tinged winged creatures in the forest where Sam found the eluvian ivy. The settings stick with you for awhile.

I also enjoyed the competition between Sam, an alchemist trained in the old ways, and the ZoroAster megapharma company with their synthetic, modern compounds. It reminded me of “Witchworld” by Emma Fischel, which has a similar conflict between ancient and modern magical technology. Of course, in “The Potion Diaries” the conflict wasn’t black and white, mainly because of Sam’s wish to try out the modern laboratory of her rivals and the CEO of ZoroAster’s hot teenage son who greatly admires Sam himself.

“The Potion Diaries” blends magic and romance in a competition that lets one girl try to prove her abilities and help her country. It’s a great read.

“The Problem with Forever” by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Mallory Dodge has difficulty speaking up. In fact, Mallory has trouble speaking at all. Her early childhood experiences in foster care conditioned her to stay quiet, unnoticed, and out of sight. Now Mallory has been living with loving and understanding parents for years where she has been homeschooled. However, she wants to go to college. And to test whether or not she is ready for the crowds and noise and people at college, she is trying out her senior year at the local high school.

This would be hard enough for anyone, but it gets harder. On Mallory’s first day of class, she encounters Rider Stark, her friend and protector from foster care. All the memories Mallory’s suppressed start coming back and she feels drawn to Rider immediately because of their shared past. Can Mallory cope in the challenging high school environment? Can she learn to speak up and face her past? And will Rider help her or hold her back?

This is a book that deals with a lot of sensitive, tough issues. It takes a hard look at the failings of the foster care system, child abuse, and the disparity between the rich and the poor. And yet it is hopeful. The book starts with Mallory in a pretty good place. She’s escaped the abuse, she’s living in a place of privilege, and she has a second chance to rewrite her story and grow. Of course, her scars remain. Why wouldn’t they?

Also, a strong current of attraction between Mallory and Rider drives the plot. Will they become romantically involved or won’t they? Will Rider also manage to escape poverty and believe in himself?

This novel reminded me strongly of Rainbow Rowell’s “Eleanor and Park” because it deals with very similar issues. It also shares a central conflict, telling a story of a romance between two teens with families in very different classes and how their families respond to their relationship.

It made me consider: Why are people (including me, obviously) attracted to these stories? They are difficult reads. They aren’t escapist. They take a hard look at the problems in the world around us, and some of these problems undoubtedly the reader will have faced or are facing, or people close to them have faced or are facing.

Basically, the conflict and issues in this story gets up close and personal. It doesn’t matter where in the novel the reader sees themself. They may relate to the privileged house of Mallory’s adoptive family, or the meets-the-basic-needs-but-still-full-of-love house of Rider’s current foster family, or the worst case scenario house of the foster family from Mallory and Rider’s past (I sincerely hope not). The reader will see themself in the story somewhere. And yet, no matter which class the reader relates to, everyone has the opportunity to fall in love. It’s human. Love conquers borders, classes, races, everything. Love conquers all.

Because in the end, it’s what everyone wants the most: to love and be loved. And, as Armentrout quotes from “The Velveteen Rabbit,” everyone wants to be real as well.

Stories that deal with this message and show that despite all the troubles in the world that love can still exist, well. Those are powerful stories. And somehow they are the most hopeful.

Minor Characters Aren’t Reference Manuals!

There’s a common character trope that I often read in middle grade and young adult novels. The smart minor character who knows everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

Let me give you an example. This example obviously doesn’t exist in a real novel, but it should give you an idea of what I mean. So, we have a character. Let’s call her Geraldine. Now twelve-year-old Geraldine is really smart. So smart she has a photographic memory and she can memorize everything, including plenty of pointless and not so pointless trivia. Geraldine is usually a friend or ally of the main character and isn’t the star of the show.

So the main character and Geraldine and the rest of their gang are on a boat, and they need to navigate to the treasure buried at the bottom of the sea. How ever will they figure out what to do?

Cue Geraldine.

Geraldine knows all the polar coordinates (she memorized them one afternoon while she was still in diapers) and how to read the stars, so she can navigate them from any point of origin to a mysterious South Pacific island. When the characters finally arrive at their destination thanks to Geraldine, they have to scuba dive down to the treasure chest on the ocean floor. But don’t worry, Geraldine will know exactly how deep they have to go within 10 meters to the bottom to avoid getting the bends. And when they reclaim the treasure chest, and the volcano explodes on the island, Geraldine will conveniently know that the melting point of gold is 1,064 °C  so that the main character knows to dip the chest back into water to save the Magical Golden Amulet of Scubadoobadoo before it is destroyed.

Okay. So maybe like some kids, Geraldine has some obsessions. She is obsessed with the ocean, with geography and maps, and maybe chemistry too to explain her knowledge of melting points. Maybe Geraldine gets nervous and can’t perform physical feats and her nerd glasses break under pressure – all the typical nerd character flaws.

However, besides Geraldine’s not-so-random obsessions that totally serve the plot and nerd character flaws that are totally cliché, she has no personality. There is no reason for her to be friends with the main character – they have nothing in common. She most certainly does not tell jokes. She never makes mistakes, unless she forgets to round to the proper significant figure in her calculations. She doesn’t serve an emotional purpose that connects with any other characters besides the author telling us point blank that they are friends.

This is because Geraldine isn’t a character, she is a reference manual.

“But Geraldine was integral to the plot!” you cry.

No, no, Geraldine was not.

When Geraldine navigated the crew to the island, she could be replaced by a GPS.

When Geraldine knew the dangers of the bends and the melting point of gold, she could be replaced by Google, an encyclopaedia, or a text book.

If Geraldine made a calculation (like how fast the boat could travel in a harsh wind or something), she could be replaced by a calculator.

Characters like Geraldine don’t just serve as some means for main character to achieve their goal. Characters, even minor ones, have their own purpose and goals in the plot. Maybe they want romance. Maybe they want the Magical Golden Amulet of Scubadoobadoo for themselves, muahahaha. Maybe they don’t even want to be there, but they have to be or else the main character will use the Magical Golden Amulet of Scubadoobadoo to enslave their family.

Please notice I’m not saying that smart kids and teens don’t exist. Some kids and teens DO have photographic memory. And some smart kids and teens without photographic memory CAN memorize an obscene number of facts. However, they have other aspects of their personality as well.

Because smart, bookish, nerdy characters are people too! They have passions besides facts they’ve memorized. They have failings. They connect to others. Sometimes they also like things that are incredibly mainstream like popular radio, or cute animals, or reality TV, or epic Youtube fails. They don’t just nerd, nerd, nerd all the time. They don’t.

So, if you must have a character that can recite pi to fifty decimal places, just remember, they are more than that. They are a human being with their own wants and desires, their own strengths and flaws. And if you can replace your character with a GPS, a smart phone, an encyclopaedia, a calculator – whatever – they aren’t fully fleshed out as a character yet. Find out what makes them tick besides your need for the main character to have a walking, talking reference manual. Please. Your readers will thank you.

Kiersten White’s “Paranormalcy” Series

I really enjoyed “And I Darken” and “Now I Rise” from Kiersten White’s recent series, “The Conqueror’s Saga.” In fact, I needed more of White’s writing now. I couldn’t wait for book 3 of “The Conqueror’s Saga” to come out.

Fortunately for me, White has written more books. I gravitated towards her “Paranormalcy” series and read all three books ridiculously fast. Since I read her newest series first, I expected the characters in “Paranormalcy” to be dark and disturbing and the world to be immensely detailed and historical. However, “Paranormalcy” is a completely different beast. Actually, I was glad to read something lighthearted and bubbly for once. Sometimes the darkness in the books I read gets to me and it was a great contrast to meet Evie, the star of this series, who loves boys, pink, and kicking paranormal butt with her taser.

The dialogue throughout the series was hilarious. Evie is both girly and awesome. Too often I meet the female character who is determined to be so tough that she loses her femininity. This is such a common trope these days, it gets tiring. Evie is a great example of how there is nothing wrong with being a girl and liking girl things. She shows that being a girl does not contradict being strong.

Even though the “Paranormalcy” series is cheerful and pokes fun at common paranormal tropes in YA (cough, cough, vampires, cough, cough), it still deals with serious themes. Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend definitely has some issues with consent and boundaries. These themes play throughout the books, but don’t get too heavy and in-your-face. And, although the evil, sexy faerie trope has definitely made its mark on the YA shelves, “Paranormalcy” is different enough to enjoy. I thoroughly did.

“Witchworld” by Emma Fischel

I’ve had a soft spot for middle grade novels about witches ever since I was eight. At that age, I read “The Witch Family” by Eleanor Estes and decided the witch life was for me. Now that I’m older, nothing has changed. I love witches with their unusual potions, and tendency to veer towards evil, and pride in ugly appearances. They’re great. So when I saw “Witchworld” on the shelves of my local library, I knew it was my kind of book.

“Witchworld” describes a modern family of witches: a single mum and her two daughters. The story follows the youngest daughter Flo. The world of witches has evolved from the last time I visited, and now has modern devices like a spellstick instead of a magic wand, and a skyrider instead of a broomstick. However, when Flo’s grandma comes to stay with her ancient techology and cooks up a potion in Flo’s mum’s spotless kitchen, well, things are bound to get interesting. Flo’s grandma is convinced Witchworld is in danger from ghouls.

Only one problem: everyone in Witchworld knows ghouls are extinct.

Or are they?

“Witchworld” is hilarious. I loved the intragenerational familial bantering. I loved the parallels with young people and technology in our world. And the main character Flo with her obsession with pixies and concern about doing the right thing is a relatable and fun  voice to follow. This is a great read for younger readers.

How I’m Spending This Nanowrimo

This November I decided not to participate in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). Does that mean I’m not working on my novel? Certainly not. I’ve been working on my novel this month like crazy. All November I’ve been working towards a huge novel-centric goal of my own. It just wasn’t Nanowrimo’s goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

Nanowrimo’s goal is great for when you are writing a first draft and want to write it quickly. And I love Camp Nanowrimo in April and July because you can set a more flexible goal that can either be the total words you write, or minutes you spend working on your project. The supportive online community of writers in both Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo motivates and inspires me.

However, I have to say this:

I am definitely a fan of Camp Nanowrimo. But the November Nanowrimo itself has never worked for me.

There are a few reasons for this:


  1. I’m usually not ready to start a new novel in November. I’m working on another novel in progress. I can’t just write a novel in November and call it a month. I’ve been working through my current novel for many, many months.
  2. Word count goals don’t lend themselves towards editing where progress is slow and the delete key sometimes feels like the only key. I log my progress by the number of minutes I write in a week.
  3. I could write 50,000 words in a month, but I guarantee they will be garbage. And that’s okay if you want to get your thoughts all out in one full swoop during a first draft. Sometimes you have to wade through garbage to find diamonds in the rough. But if I’m just going to have to do a complete rewrite anyway, I’d rather write my novel methodically instead of at the speed of light.


This isn’t to bash Nano too badly. If it works for you, it works.

My goal this November is to edit my current novel into shape so that I feel ready to send it to some beta-readers at the end of the month. This has led to some pretty intense rounds of edits. I figured out how to turn my main character into a hero. I figured out my ending. I sat down and analyzed what had to happen to make the book work.

Once I’d “finished,” I gave it to my husband to read. Then he gave me feedback. Now I’m working on strengthening a few more points to improve the ending before I show it to more people.

My goal isn’t a goal of 50,000 words in a month. I have more than 50,000 words for a while now. It’s making sure those +50,000 words are the right ones and fit with the right plot points. It’s rewriting some of those +50,000 words to make them belong to a whole.

Will I make my goal?

Well, November 30th is coming around really fast, but I think I will.

Fingers crossed.

“Daughter of the Burning City” by Amanda Foody

I’m not sure what it is about YA fantasy books taking place during carnivals, but I’ve been reading a lot of them lately. There’s something seductive about a dark dangerous carnival where magic thrives and mysteries abound. In the past little while I’ve read Stephanie Garber’s “Caraval” and Melissa Marr’s “Carnival of Souls.” So what makes “Daughter of the Burning City” different from the others?

First, the magic in “Daughter of the Burning City” is more subtle perhaps than other fantasy books. The heroine Sorina has an unusual power of illusion-work. Although other people in this novel’s carnival have more flashy kinds of magic such as mind reading and fire abilities, the main focus is on Sorina and her illusion-work which allows her to create illusions that are people with their own personalities. These people become her family. Since this kind of illusion-work requires a lot of skill, Sorina doesn’t ever create a family member in the novel. Her family shows up in the novel already made. Instead of magic, most of the plot revolves more around the mystery, which we’ll get to later.

Another thing that makes “Daughter of the Burning City” stick out is that Sonia’s family is really, really bizarre. There is a life-like tree man, a dude with fingernails growing out of his head, and a half-fish half-man. Together with Sorina, they form a Freak Show. Even though the characters are grotesque and unusual, they are given fairly likeable personalities, although admittedly the tree man doesn’t have much to say. Because he’s a tree. These characters are unlike any that you’ve ever seen before.

The final component that differentiates “Daughter of the Burning City” from other carnival YA fantasies is the plot. When one by one, Sorina’s family members are murdered, Sorina needs to find the killer to protect them. In itself this isn’t that groundbreaking, however the way in which the killer is found is pretty unique. Sorina enlists the help of Luca, a gossip-worker. Although some twists were easy to pick up on, one of most major twists in the novel I did NOT see coming and it was a biggie. Amanda Foody has an unusual creativity that makes this novel worth a read even if you’ve read other carnival YA novels. It’s exciting and mysterious and I’ve never read anything quite like it.

“Furthermore” by Tahereh Mafi

“Furthermore” is a middle grade fantasy novel written in the style of such old time classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” or the more recently written “The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.” The author, as an  omniscient narrator leads us through the scenes with gentle and sometimes humourous commentary. Although this point of view has fallen out of fashion recently, it was so refreshing to see it here and really added colour to this fairytale in every sense of the world.

You see, Alice is from the land of Ferenwood where the more colourful you are the more magic you have. As Alice lacks all pigment except for some colour in her eyes, she feels like she is an outcast. During the Surrender, a festival where all twelve-year-olds showcase their talents, Alice places last, confirming that she doesn’t belong in her community.

However, an unusual opportunity presents itself where she teams up with an unlikely ally and sets off on a quest to find her father. The pair have to journey to a strange new land called Furthermore. There, Alice will be forced to accept her unusual form of magic and her identity in order to bring her father home.

This is a beautifully written book that often has a lyrical flow not unlike poetry. The fantastical world is both whimsical and terrifying. “Furthermore” has many uplifting messages about friendship, family and accepting oneself. It is a suitable read for readers both young and old alike.

Thoughts On How To Edit Your Novel Part 2

Last week, I wrote down some thoughts on how to edit your novel. Since I’m still editing myself (it never ends!), I have more thoughts on what I’ve learned about the process that I’d like to share in hopes that they help someone else. Of course, everyone’s creative process is different, so do what works for you.

1) Editing takes time. This is perhaps the most crucial lesson I’ve learned from tackling my manuscript. Sure, you can write a first draft in a month or two, but fixing that draft is not easy. You will have to answer questions such as are you consistent? Do you switch days in the middle of a scene? Is your character wearing mittens and suddenly swaps them out for gloves mid-discussion with the abominable snowman? Those sorts of silly things.

Then come the more complicated questions like are your characters consistent? Do they seem to switch personalities part way through the story in a way that can’t be attributed to character development? In one of my drafts, a character ripped his jacket and I had him moaning about a replacement, which didn’t make any sense because he was ridiculously rich. So. Those kinds of things are important too. Character consistency also comes from examining if your character is driven by the same goals throughout the story or if their goals change they make sense.

And then there are more complicated issues like “I want a helicopter search party in the ending, but nobody can drive a helicopter/where does the helicopter come from/how does this scene fit with the others/is this even a good idea.” This sort of issue is difficult because it is vague. You can’t figure out how to write the scene because you aren’t totally sure what the scene is and how it fits with the whole novel. These are tricky. These issues take time to solve. You can’t just happily type in a helicopter search party in ten minutes if you don’t know what the heck is going on. Sometimes you have to think about what best serves your novel and although your instinct might be spot on, orchestrating everything together might only happen after days, weeks, or months of thinking it through.

Also, these character, plot, or general manuscript problems require solving like any other problem. It can help to treat them like a tricky question on your high school calculus assignment by which I mean try, try again, try ten million times, swear, crumple the paper in a ball, moan about how stupid you are – just kidding. That is not what I mean.

What I mean is, mull over the problem in the story. Scribble down a few solutions. Discuss solutions with another person if you’re stuck. If you get frustrated with the problem, put the manuscript away, do something else, get a good night’s sleep, and try again in the morning. Sometimes when I’m really stuck, I put my manuscript away for an entire week. This has never failed me. Once the week is over, I usually can solve the problem with a fresh mind. See my article on the importance of breaks during the creative process for more information.

2) Stuck about whether something sounds good? Read it aloud.

This method is kind of dorky and embarrassing, but sit alone in your room and read your work out loud. Things that are awkward and odd will sound strange and you can figure out how to fix them.

This is especially useful for dialogue. If you can’t say what you’ve written on the page out loud, neither can your character. Speaking your character’s lines will show you what works and teach you how to recognize their voice.

However, this method isn’t just limited to dialogue and is extremely useful for prose as well. The only thing I’ve found better than reading my own work aloud is having someone else read my work aloud. Hearing it in someone else’s voice makes repetitive words and awkward phrases that much easier to pick out. Of course, finding someone willing to read your full +50,000 word manuscript is a pretty tall order, so I mostly end up speaking by myself in my room.

I’ve heard that having the computer read it aloud for you also can work wonders. I haven’t tried this myself (the complete lack of inflection kind of scares me), but I’ve heard that it works for a lot of people.

Since this post is getting rather long, I’m going to stop here. Stay tuned for part three next week!