Editing Chapter 24 – how to avoid cheap sentiment in writing

I’m feeling very chuffed with myself as I have finally finished editing Chapter 24 which tells the story of Freddie at Bristol Kite Festival. I had to write in a whole new character into the scene and increase the pathos. But it’s done and the word count for the edited novel now stands at 75,698 words. I have a childish pleasure in knowing how many words I’ve edited. Though as Mark Twain says in The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” 
Freddie flies a Black angel kite like this 
Chapter 24 has always been a favourite of mine – it’s got emotion and power, it’s a high point in the book, and it’s got a bit of magical writing about kites that uses extended metaphor to mirror what’s going on in Freddie’s world. Freddie doesn’t normally do sentiment being a 14 year old boy, but here I let him have a bit of fun linguistically. 

A few weeks ago I took Chapter 24 to my writing group and P, (he likes to be anonymous) said, ‘Grace, you’ve got a puppy moment in the scene. I don’t like it. Too obvious.’

I considered, and I knew he was absolutely right. I’d written this chapter as if it was a film scene. Queue: tears, soppy music, and heightened emotion. I was cheating. I was giving the reader a scene which wasn’t deserved. It was too predictable, too expected, too easy. 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” – Robert Frost.   

I’ve gone back and made it sharper, edgier. Now Freddie has a mix of emotions and the high points are counterbalanced with rougher edges and dark humour. 
One writing technique I’m using which is very useful is to read my work out loud when editing. In a novel like this which has three first person narrators the voice is all. It won’t work if I get the voice even slightly off. It will stand out. 

Getting the specifics right is also really important – what references does Freddie use, or any 14 year old boy? Am I being consistent across the novel? The more I read it out loud, the more I can hear if my own voice, or  use of language, is getting in the way of my character’s voice, and the more I can hear Freddie’s voice. Reading aloud helps as I can hear the duff note and when the rhythm falters.

 For now, it’s done. 

1 thought on “Editing Chapter 24 – how to avoid cheap sentiment in writing

  1. Well done indeed Grace, can’t wait to read the whole after enjoying the parts shown to us at the writing group. Bernice

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