It has taken me one week to make my first pass edits on the Big Ledge manuscript. For the most part, the results have been successful. Fixed up some spelling and a few punctuation errors—actually quite a few punctuation errors—or, as I like to think to think of them--style choices. For the most part, however, the story seems self-consistent.
I did find, on one occasion, that I had given a minor character two different names, but that was easily fixed. And I was reminded of my tendency to refer to major characters by several different names and epithets. Sproule for example is variously called Bobbie, Bob, Robert, Robbie but mostly just Sproule. In the courtroom he is also referred to as the prisoner, the accused and the condemned man. Crown Counsel is referred to as A.E.B. Davie, or Alexander, sometimes A.E.B., the attorney-general, or simply the prosecutor.
Sproule himself is just as guilty of this tendency as the author. He calls Lily Langtry: Lily, Ma’am or Miss depending on the circumstance and his state of mind.
It’s not that I can’t make up my mind. Different occasions seem to call for different names and I guess I like to err on the side of variety. However, if it results in confusing the reader… This is something I will have to keep in mind for my next pass at the manuscript.
It was not my ambition to seriously reduce the size of the work on the first pass. However, even without this goal specifically in mind, it was clear that some passages were simply repetitive, too wordy, or inconsistent with other parts of the story. Identifying these problem passages allowed me to reduce the work by about two thousand words. Mind you, that’s barely more than 1% of the entire manuscript. I have a long way to go to reach my goal of 90 000 words.
Nor is it a straight forward process. Sometimes it becomes glaringly apparent that I need to write more material for the sake of clarification, which is a painful revelation when one is trying to shrink the piece. For example, my character, Fr. Desjardins suddenly disappears from the story with no explanation. Can’t have that. But in how few words can I fix it?
One my next pass, besides being attentive to the usual things: spelling, punctuation, internal logic etc., I will be paying special attention to 19th century American slang. I’ve consulted several online dictionaries and made a fairly careful reading of Tom Sawyer, to provide me with vocabulary and expressions which are authentic for the time. Much of the time while writing Big Ledge, my inner voice was speaking like a character from some John Wayne western!