My Characters Have A Drinking Problem

Posted: December 28, 2013 in Self-publishing
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I’m in the process of editing my fourth novel, and it’s come to my attention that, whether they know it or not, most of my main characters have developed a dependence on drink. Thankfully for them and for their respective livers, their beverages of choice are rather benign—coffee and bottled water for the most part. To be honest, it isn’t the characters’ fault. They all have, if not perfect, at least relatively normal backstories. The blame for their addiction lies solely at the feet of their author. Namely, me.

One of the ways writers more talented and successful than I am break up long sections of dialogue is by inserting little bits of action called “beats.” I’ve found that writing novels about disparate groups of people who come together to deal with the end of the world results in (not surprisingly) many group discussions, the topic of which is usually how to deal with the end of the world. Since the electricity is often out by the time my characters get together, their beats tend to take the form of technology-independent movements like fidgeting, nodding, shrugging (no-nos, I know), and yes, drinking. The extent of their drinking problem didn’t sink in until the fifth or sixth go-through of the new novel (tentatively titled Beacons), but now I find myself doing global searches for words like “coffee” and “water” and eliminating the offending beats. So far, I think I’ve killed half of them.

It’s amazing what slips under your radar during the long, torturous, seemingly never-ending editing process. The day I uploaded A World Gone Gray, while I was putting the final touches on the table of contents, I discovered my debut novel had two Chapter 37s, and no Chapter 38s. Keep in mind that AWGG‘s first draft was completed over five years ago, and that I’d probably read that thing line for line 20 times since 2008. To this day, I’m still finding typos in work I’ve spent literally years poring over. But that’s just one of the many pitfalls of self-publishing on a budget, it seems. I’m sure the extra pair (or two, or three) of eyes provided by professional editing would go a long way toward solving these problems, both drinking and otherwise.


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