“His knuckles clenched” (13/4/2012)

All us writers have our quirks. I think mine might be clenching things. I’ve begun to notice that a lot of clenching goes on. Fists are clenched. Jaws are clenched. I might even have clenched some toes, although thankfully I appear to have self-edited that out. No buttocks, I think.

Here are the summed stats for a couple of novels of mine whose titles I shall keep jealously to myself.

First draft: 26 clenches
Second draft: 33 clenches
Before the edit: 29 clenches
After the edit: 26 clenches
Final draft: 20 clenches

This is the sort of thing that you start to notice (if you’re lucky) when you read your work aloud, and I’ve been doing a lot of that of late. Is this a lot of clenching? Maybe it isn’t, but I feel it might be. I think a few of my characters have my copy-editor to thank for not having serious impacted molars and possible tendonitis in their knuckles by the end of their stories. Admittedly, many of them have bigger problems to worry about by then.

Contrast this to eyebrow raising from the same two novels:

First draft: 10 eyebrows raised
Second draft: 4 eyebrows raised
Before the edit: 4 eyebrows raised
After the edit: 5 eyebrows raised
Final draft: 5 eyebrows raised

Admittedly, the two novels in question are more knuckle-clenching than eyebrow raising in nature, but see how the eyebrows get self-edited out at an early stage, while the clenching goes up instead of down and needs an editor to get under control? Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with a bit of clenching, but judging from conversations at Eastercon, I reckon most writers either have or had a blind spot somewhere.

“The author, having become aware at last of one blind-spot whose mere existence greatly raised the likelihood of others, felt a familiar tension. A frustration born of his own imperfections. He clenched his fists.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, among many other things, is why we have editors and copy-editors.


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