Boll Weevils, Generic fiction and the Final Edit
I just got through the final editing of the second book. This involved the Great Semi Crusade, the rewrite of “Jesse and the Meteors” and a few minor fixes in continuity. Against my vociferous objections, I was required to add a raft load of semicolons from the first editor. I dismantled sentences to avoid using them, and, truth be told, gave in a lot. This final editor asked me to remove all the semis I inserted and replace them with good plebian commas. I readily accepted the challenge, reducing the semi-load to about average for US lit as far as Ngram is concerned. I feel clean again.
The Sub-chapter, “Jesse and the Meteors,” started off at 2300 words in the chapter “The Deal.” In contrast to my first book with its sixty some chapters, the new book has but ten, mimicking a hand of poker. After rereading the sub-chapter, I realized I was wasting a lot of dramatic capital which I had tried to invest in proceedings for most of the previous 50,000 words. Therefore, I did what editors really really really hate you doing: rewriting a chapter instead of just editing it.
I did it anyway, adding another 1200 words.
I am much happier with the outcome. The bad guys still get their comeuppance and the good guys still win through in the end. The suspense is drawn out a bit more.
Continuity, for those of you who are unaware, is the term used for making sure all the events line up right. Effects do not awkwardly precede their causes. The flipping months on the calendar don’t hiccup unexpectedly and the Great Archduke Philburt does not know stuff he is not supposed to know until he gets the mysterious letter sealed with crimson wax thrust under his door in the third act. All that stuff is “continuity.”
As most of us are aware, fiction deals with the awkwardness of continuity frequently by the use of indefinite times. Authors are taught to be non-specific and talk about spring, evening, next week, after-hours and any number of indefinite periods and designations of time. It is meant, I have been told, to universalize the prose, making people see more locations and times than one might with concrete times and places.
I am having none of it.
I am setting my speculation in a concrete time and place in the near but unobtainable future. One reason, of course, is to ensure I will be well and properly dead before any of my predictions will be shown to be just the silliness of a man who ought to know better. Secondly, however, I would really hate it if, when I describe lovingly how the rising moon gleams off the limpid water through the willows, some smart-ass doesn’t come up and tell me that the moon, on that date, had already set by the time our lady was supposed to be observing it. If I say that the moon is full, I want to be darn sure it is full and hasn’t taken up her skirts and scuttled away for a quick smoke. It would be just like a moon to do that.
Therefore, all my chapters are lovingly set in a real place and time, sometimes down to a second of time and a fraction of a second of longitude. Some places, like Sun Prairie Wisconsin, are located quite exactly where I say they are by longitude and latitude. You can look it up. The night sky is accurate to the requirements of the trade thanks to online apps which give a future sky with precision. If Jesse says the star is Antares, believe it.
Am I losing out on making my fiction more universal? Perhaps. The generic “Smallville” has been done, however. A book about Africa I have read starts with the line “Any book that starts with ‘Africa is’ is wrong.”
Every place is someplace to someone. Enterprise, Alabama has a bronze statue to the boll-weevil ( the wee blobby thing on top). I know why and it makes me feel proud to live in the same state with these peoples’ progeny. Lives are made up of incident, the daily going and coming of humans and how they deal with trials of nature and each other. If so now, it will be so in any imagined future I might write about.
So, I ignore the advice and tediously work on my continuity to make it all fit together without embarrassing inconsistencies.
Exiles Escape should be released in about 8 weeks.