Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Second Eye

Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. You sit, you write, you ponder, you write, you research, you write. Then you do several editing passes, mostly catching overused words, missing words, misspelled words, and maybe some timeline issues. When you think you've done the best you can, you hire a specialist, a second eye to catch all that stuff you missed.

Some writers, usually new writers, don't think they need a second eye. They pass up that step because they're sure they know everything they need to know about writing. The longer I spend writing, the more I know I need that second eye to keep me in line.

One of the things that happen while writing is the multiple changes to the story (at least my stories). I start out with a clump of ideas and as I write, I refine, I change, I delete and add...and sometimes I don't see that step where I've eliminated crucial information by mistake. That's one of the things my Second Eye catches. She sends me a note asking me "what about?", and I have to confess that was an error. Oops.

One well known author of a long-running series, misnamed an important character in a book mid-series. She didn't catch it. Editor didn't catch it. It went to print with the wrong name. Something similar happened in the book I'm currently whipping into shape. In book two, the character's name was Gray Horse. For some weird reason, I called him Gray Fox all through book three. Still don't know why I did that, but I did catch it. Now, if the Second Eye and I can catch all the rest of the continuity issues, that would be good.

Another thing the Second Eye can point out is when the author is too distant from the story. My Second Eye felt my main character was...not a very sympathetic character. We spent time discussing how I could convey how he really feels. Writers don't always get it right when we try to express emotion, especially when the character is a stoic male type. It's a fine line.

One time, when I was writing one of my early books, my beta reader sent me a clump of text with this note--"You're trying to convince me he loves this female. I don't believe it. Fix it." Heh. Well, I did. And the story was stronger. But until she pointed it out, I didn't see it.

Over the years, I've had a variety of Second Eyes. I've learned different aspects of my craft from each one. Some focus more on the grammar issues. Others focus more on the story and character aspects. But each one had a lot of wisdom to offer. I would urge writers to never pass up the opportunity to learn and expand their writing skills. Always, I say always, have a Second Eye in your quiver.

Finally--maintain a sense of humor. In the first iteration of Shadows on Stone, I hired an Second Eye and sent the book to her. She sent it back with some creative comments. But the best was about my use of boxes. Yep. Boxes. First she just highlighted the text. After a bit she highlighted in RED.  Then she started adding comments in the margins. More boxes. Big boxes. Small boxes. Boxes again...until she finally wrote ENOUGH BOXES!!!

Um. Well in the final version, there were only a FEW boxes. Just a few... 


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