Over the last week I’ve done something I’ve needed to do for years—I reread Code of Conduct and, well, cleaned it up. The main thing I wanted to do was remove exclamation marks because damn, I tossed them around like I owned them. I used them multiple times in the same paragraph, sometimes combining them with italicized sentences when the italics already indicated stress and emphasis. It actually pained me to reread parts of the book because things would be proceeding merrily along and then WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ! DOING THERE?
So I culled a bunch, leaving the very few that I felt made sense. In his 10 Rules For Good Writing, Elmore Leonard allowed for 2-3 exclamation marks per 100K words. He apparently exceeded that number himself, but not by much. He walked his talk. I can’t promise to hew to his model but I will try, if only because seeing so many !!!!! in past works has made me a little sensitive to them.
In addition to punctuation excision and substitution, I looked for those bits that were at the time meant to be offhand comments/something to fill in the space but which now conflict with later books in the series or where future books are headed. Nothing excessive. No replotting. I removed a few needless sentences and edited some that set up complications/relationships that I never addressed later on. I made up the Haárin and bornsect relationships and languages on the fly because I was a full-blown seat-of-the-pants plotter 25+ years ago (yikes!) and I didn’t yet realize how one-off comments could come back to bite me.
Over the next few weeks, I will be going over the rest of the series in order, removing exclamation marks, assessing details. Also, I’ve forgotten what I wrote at times. Is there a relationship I can develop, a conflict I can build into a plot or subplot, a cool thing I could make more use of? When that’s done, I will have a firmer grounding when it comes time to edit Echoes of War. I already know of a few things that need to be addressed and I am sure there are more waiting to pop out from the weeds.
Series writing is its own challenge. Changes, plot, relationships need to make sense; ideally, they follow the arcs that began in that first work. All the developments should make story sense and character sense even as the details pile up and the room to maneuver grows ever smaller. In fact, part of the fun is looking at a corner in which I painted myself and figuring out how to get out of it. At least, I tell myself it’s fun.
No. It really is fun. Sometimes it’s like triathlon/just-one-more-rep/smiling through gritted teeth, but. It’s what I do.