Organization Is More Than Half a Book

Thieves of Fire, the second novel about Carding, Vermont, just got back from an initial reading by my editor.
Index cards for TOF 2 for web
I knew it needed more work but I wanted to bounce it off of someone else to get another perspective on my choice of voice for the additional writing before I plunged in.

The feedback was good and the insights very helpful.

But along with the additional writing comes some additional organization. Or reorganization, to be specific in this case.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to edit the work of a number of writers at all levels of experience. It’s always a challenge to walk the fine line between pushing for one’s personal standard of excellence and an author’s personal needs.

I’m talking about writing style here.

Walking this line is a lot like trying to figure out how hard you need to weed a garden. I have a friend who’s a zealot on weed control and will spend hours digging out every root cell of creeping Charlie or crabgrass. I don’t profess any particular love of weeds but part of me knows that no matter how zealous I go after them, they’ll be back.

So a little live-and-let-live is not out of order in my garden or in the books I edit.

But to me, the one place where you have to strive as hard as you can for perfection in a book is its internal organization. All of us know the sensation of letting our eyes glaze over during the gush of an ill-prepared speaker. The same is true of a disorganized book.

Cover for Thieves of Fire
Cover for Thieves of Fire

Strangely enough, this is the hardest lesson to teach a new writer, and part of me has come to believe that one either has an internal sense of organization or does not. I mean, how does one teach a memoir writer how to put their life in chronological order? Wouldn’t you already know that? (I tried to edit a book like that once. The memory still makes me shake my head.)

This is where the index cards come in. (You were wondering what they were doing in the picture, weren’t you?)

I find these little gems indispensable at this point in editing because I’ve already established my characters and over-arching plot. But it’s keeping track of the fine detail that’s critical at this point.

So for those who have been asking about Thieves of Fire, it’s back on my hard drive for the final run-through, a little later than I wished as far as publication is concerned. But it will be a whole better when I’m done.

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