Monday, February 13, 2017

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Editing
 
This past December I finished the first draft – 35 chapters – of my Roanoke historical novel manuscript and began the lengthy task of editing.  Here is some of what I want to say about editing.
 
Editing encompasses everything from placing commas correctly to word, phrase, and sentence selection.  Narrating dialogue is much easier for me to do than narrating character thoughts and emotions.
 
Initially, I edit five chapters, go back to the first chapter, and edit the five chapters again.  Then I edit the next five chapters, go back, and edit a second time.  Ideally, the double editing makes the writing much better.  That is not always the result.  Sometimes the revisions are not much better than the original.
 
I do my first writing without much regard for articulate expression.  It is enough for me to get the story into words on a sloppy disc.  Thereafter, I work mostly on expression until I feel satisfied with the result.
 
After the double read-through, I edit the entire manuscript without going back.  I always find original flaws overlooked or flaws added in the previous editing.  I liken this to weeding a large, overgrown planting area.  The tallest weeds have to go first.  Afterward, I am able to see the smaller weeds.  I want them to be entirely gone after the second read-through.  They never are.  Something always needs to be improved.
 
After I have edited the manuscript three times, I have my wife do a read-through.  She is a voracious reader.  I trust her judgment.  It is difficult judging your own work.  It helps considerably to have another pair of eyes assess it.  Those eyes must, however, belong to somebody who recognizes good writing.  After my wife’s involvement, I make necessary changes and read through the manuscript again.
 
I am currently double-editing chapters 21 to 25.  A year has passed since I wrote those chapters.  I had forgotten several scenes.  Reading them was like reading another writer’s work.  Most pleased me.  Here is one such forgotten scene (edited one).
 
Inside, darkness.  She could see along the walls, mostly because she was familiar with what was kept there, wooden utensils, Machk’s bows, cutting and sharpening tools, planting and weeding poles, mortar and pestle, scraping stones, baskets containing seeds for cattapeak planting -- dark shapes recognized by a once friend now considered a personal enemy.
It had been the injury to Machk that had begun her and Nana’s estrangement. It was, unmistakably, Samoset’s death that had closed all communication between them. Until now.
Nana, lying on her raised bed in the most distant corner of the back room, was watching her.
“Nana! Get up!”
Lying on her right side, she did not stir.
“Be useful! Keep the fire burning while Wapun pries upon oysters, while your brother fishes to add to the pot!”
Nana rose to a sitting position.
“You smell! How long since you bathed? Machk and Wapun have to sleep here, also!”
“What business is it of yours? I do not want you here.” Her tone was more factual than emotional.
“Our men are trained from boyhood to accept torture and flaming death without self-pity or complaint!” Alsoomse’s demeanor was harsh. “We are taught to accept what is not fair and to continue to perform our duties as though the gods favor us. Get up! Be a Roanoke woman! Samoset is not worth grieving!”
Anger flashed in Nana’s dark eyes.
“Yes, Samoset! He is not worthy of your grief, or whatever it is that makes you such a lifeless coward!  Get up! Get up if no more than to hit me, you ugly, manless imitation of a woman!”
Nana stood. “You!” She pointed. “With your deformed face!” She jabbed her forefinger. “You brought that on yourself! Machk could have been killed! Get out of this house!”
“No! Not unless you take your stinking body now to the creek!”
Nana stepped close.
“You do not have the courage to hit me!”
Nana swung.
Alsoomse caught and held high Nana’s right fist. “I am still here. Try again!”
“I hate you!”
“Of course you do!”
Nana yanked her right hand loose.
Alsoomse slapped her friend’s face.
Eyes large, Nana looked at her.
“That is for allowing Samoset to use you!” Alsoomse slapped her with her left hand. “That is for abandoning your friends, who did not abandon you!”
Nana swung. Alsoomse allowed Nana’s right hand to strike her deformed cheek. Despite herself, she winced. Pain coursed through the roots of her teeth.
Nana’s left hand covered reflexively her nose and mouth.
“Get it out! Get it all out,” Alsoomse exclaimed, ‘but go this time for the other cheek!”
Staring at her, Nana burst into tears.
 
 
I chose randomly a scene from an earlier chapter to illustrate the kinds of changes I make during my double read-through.  I have divided the scene into five parts, the end of each part marked with asterisks. The first section within each part is my original writing, the second section is the result of my first read-through, and the third section is the result of my second read-through.
 
 
According to Osacan, Nana had explained, Nootau had fallen in love with a Choanoac girl. Odina had looked across the indoor fire at Mushaniq, seated on a mat beside Sokanon. She is jealous, Alsoomse had concluded, as jealous as me. Sokanon had found her man! At Croatoan. She had found a face full of pain.
 
According to Osacan, Nana had explained, Nootau had fallen in love with a Choanoac girl. Odina had looked across the indoor fire at Mushaniq, seated on a mat beside Sokanon. She is jealous, Alsoomse had thought, as jealous as me. Sokanon had found her man! At Croatoan. She had found a face full of pain.
 
“Osacan said Nootau fell in love with a Choanoac girl,” Nana had explained in Sooleawa’s longhouse. Odina had looked then across the indoor fire at Mushaniq, seated beside Sokanon. Odina is envious, Alsoomse had recognized, jealous as I am, that Sokanon found her man! Where I found a face full of pain!
 
***
 
She would have to be fair-minded. Careful. She had lost – she hoped temporarily -- one best friend. Her other best friend, Odina, seemed uncertain how to relate to her. Sokanon’s good fortune and her misfortune were not her cousin’s fault. Sokanon was a far better cousin than she deserved. She wanted to speak her feelings, her thoughts!
“Will you tell us stories any more?” Pules had asked. “Not … yet” was all she had been able to answer.
 
She would have to be fair-minded. And careful. She had lost – temporarily, she hoped -- a best friend, Nana. Odina seemed uncertain how to relate to her. Sokanon’s good fortune and her misfortune were not her cousin’s fault. Sokanon was a far better cousin than she deserved. She wanted desperately to speak what she thought and felt!
“Will you tell us stories any more?” Pules had asked. “Not … yet” was all she had been able to answer.
 
She had also recognized that she needed to be fair-minded. And careful. Nana now disliked her. Odina seemed uncertain how to relate to her. Her particular misfortune had been nobody’s fault but her own. How despicable that she should begrudge Sokanon’s good fortune! Sokanon was a far better cousin than she deserved! She wanted desperately to speak what she thought and felt!
“Will you tell us stories any more?” Pules had asked.
“Not … yet” had been all she had been able to answer.
 
***
 
Sokanon had spoken privately to her mother before Alsoomse and the others had entered Sooleawa’s house, having gone first to Odina’s house. During the conversations that had crossed the fire pit Alsoomse had observed closely her taciturn aunt. Sooleawa had always treated Alsoomse distantly. Her disapproval had increased after Nadie’s death. At times Aunt Sooleawa had been somewhat distant toward her own daughter. Alsoomse had thought perhaps that such behavior at certain stages of a mother/daughter relationship was normal. This evening Sooleawa was joyous.
 
Sokanon had spoken privately to her mother before Alsoomse and the others had entered Sooleawa’s house, having gone first to Odina’s. During the conversations that had crossed the fire pit Alsoomse had observed closely her taciturn aunt. Sooleawa had always treated Alsoomse distantly. Her disapproval had increased after Nadie’s death. At times Aunt Sooleawa had been somewhat distant toward Sokanon. Alsoomse had thought perhaps that such behavior was normal at certain stages of every mother/daughter relationship. This evening Sooleawa had been joyous.
 
Sokanon had spoken privately to her mother before Alsoomse and the others had entered Sooleawa’s house, having gone first to Odina’s. During the conversations that had crossed the fire pit Alsoomse had observed closely her taciturn aunt. Sooleawa had always treated Alsoomse distantly. Her disapproval had increased after Nadie’s death. At times Aunt Sooleawa had been somewhat distant toward Sokanon. Alsoomse had thought perhaps that such behavior was normal at certain stages of every mother/daughter relationship. This evening Sooleawa had been joyous.
 
***
 
As for her own return, only Wapun and Pules seemed pleased to see her.
Alsoomse thought perhaps because she could not talk nobody wished to ask her questions. Without being conscious of it they had been excluding her from their conversations. She could understand why Machk did not want to provide details about his injury and its reason. No doubt Sokanon wanted to avoid doing so, also. Talk, therefore, had coalesced on one subject: how had Sokanon and Mushaniq met and how long did Mushaniq intend to remain at Roanoke.”Indefinitely,” he had answered, bringing color to Sokanon’s cheeks.
 
As for her own return, only Wapun and Pules seemed pleased to have her.
Perhaps because she could not talk, nobody wanted to ask her questions. Consequently, they were excluding her from their conversations. She could understand why Machk did not want to provide details about his injury. Sokanon wound not have wanted to speak about it, also. Talk, therefore, had coalesced on one subject: how had Sokanon and Mushaniq met and how long did Mushaniq intend to remain at Roanoke. ”Indefinitely,” he had answered, bringing color to Sokanon’s cheeks.
 
As for her return, only Wapun and Pules seemed pleased to see her.
Perhaps because she could not talk, nobody wanted to ask her questions. Therefore, they were excluding her from their conversations. She could understand why Machk did not want to provide details about his injury. Sokanon would not have wanted to speak about either injury. Talk, not surprisingly, had coalesced on one subject: how had Sokanon and Mushaniq met and how long did Mushaniq intend to stay? ”Indefinitely,” he had answered, bringing color to Sokanon’s cheeks.
 
***
 
Alsoomse’s moroseness was sundered by Tihkoosue’s sudden entrance. Seeing her, he froze. Recovering, he took two steps toward her, knelt on one knee, extended tentatively his right arm. His face contorted. He touched her left shoulder.
“I have missed you so much!”
Their liquid eyes communicated.
Alsoomse patted the vacant space beside her.
 
Noise came suddenly from outside. Tihkoosue burst into the room. Seeing Alsoomse, he froze. Recovering, he took two steps toward her, knelt on one knee, tentatively extended his right arm. His face contorted. He touched her left shoulder.
“I have missed you so much!”
Their liquid eyes communicated.
Alsoomse patted the vacant space beside her.
 
Noise came suddenly from outside. Tihkoosue burst into the room. Seeing Alsoomse, he froze. Recovering, he took two steps toward her, knelt on one knee, tentatively extended his right arm. His face contorted. He touched her left shoulder.
“I have missed you so much!”
Their liquid eyes communicated.
Alsoomse patted the vacant mat beside her.
 
***
 
I am not pleased with some of my changes.  I hope my single read-through beginning probably next month will produce better results.