Differently Fallible: Checks and Balances for Writers

All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.  William Faulkner, 1958

Peter's Honey fig close upI love the discovery draft. I love the creative, pell-mell rush of world-building, exploring the characters, and unfolding the plot. I’m currently on page 108 of the fourth Abishag mystery and enjoying every particle of its writing. I start each day re-reading the fruit borne yesterday; I finish each day by printing that section. Watching the binder fill is like measuring the weight of diamond dust—satisfying in volume but terrifying in the uncertainty of its value.

In June, I’ll take the discovery draft through a multi-step editing process. Not as exciting. It has sparks of creativity, but mainly I’m examining the book as a whole, then each chapter, then scenes, then the paragraphs, and finally word choices. Then I spend hours agonizing over commas and colons. My revisions include proofing, conceptual changes, developmental modifications, ornamenting various descriptions, and back to proofing. When I have a mature draft (and only I know what I call a mature draft), I pass it to my beta readers.

I love my beta readers. I’ve used them for the three published Abishag mysteries, and the crew in numbers and characters differed every time. They comment on what works and what doesn’t. They ferret out spelling and grammar problems and locate punctuation errors.

We are all fallible, and any manuscript illustrates that fact. The point of using editors and beta readers is in the hope that we are differently fallible. I’m grateful that my final drafts are cleaner for them.

About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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6 Responses to Differently Fallible: Checks and Balances for Writers

  1. dayya says:

    I like your editing process! It’s the same one I follow! d:)

  2. Rebecca Lang says:

    I think you have a good editing plan. I like the diamond dust analogy.

    • mlknowlden says:

      Thanks, Rebecca! Sometimes the manuscript dictates what it needs to evolve. Sometimes it is whim. I just finished the discovery draft of Jack Fell Down. Its edit journey will be different than the first three Abishags–partly due to my schedule and priorities, partly due to the nature of the beasts.

  3. Jane Isaac says:

    Somehow I missed this post, Michelle. Well said. Beta readers make a novel richer and stronger. Wishing you much luck with your Abishag series:)

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