I've been super fortunate to have had two people advising me on edits - the superb Miranda Kate, who has been massively encouraging, and also challenged me to think harder, as well as noting bad habits I never knew I had.
I've also been lucky enough to have someone who reviewed my entry to an RWA Chapter Contest offer to continue to read and comment on it. Linda Locke, a HUGE, thank you for your generosity.
You learn from your own attempts to edit, but boy do you learn from having someone else's perspective. Here's what I have discovered:
1) I can write a pretty good story and I can write it well. That's nice to know.
2) My subconscious hates the word "though". I omit it all the time, unintentionally. What's that about? Does everyone have a word like that?
3) I overdo was and were. I need to get more direct and active, and less passive. Now I'm doing searches to look for the (many incidents) of was and were and eradicating them where appropriate.
4) I love my em-dashes (and I do, it's true). Maybe a little too much. Apparently, you can have too much of a good thing.
5) You can nearly always find a stronger word. Hit can become slammed. Tuning up your vocab has an instant impact. It's startling the difference it can make to a scene.
6) I haven't a clue where to put in chapter breaks. Luckily others do. I am learning. And what I am learning is I can stick them wherever feels natural and right. I don't have to wait until 4,000 words. I can have a really short chapter if I like. It's up to me.
7) I like a little colloquial dialect, but I don't like too much. I'm struggling with this a little. My protagonist is known to have an Irish lilt, and if I properly expressed that brogue, his voice would be unmistakable. But, with the glorious exception of Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen, i'm really put off by more than a hint of an accent. To me, it feels like a caricature. That's something I need to balance and I don't think I've got that right yet.
8) Just because I have a whole world in my head doesn't mean other people do. I need to strike a balance between not being too obscure and not giving too much away - so people can follow what's happening and why.
9) Sometimes I don't agree stylistically and that's okay. It's my novel, I guess. So as long as I'm not missing out words or over proliferating em-dashes, I can keep the odd turn of phrase just because I like it.
I'm slowly ploughing through my edits and I've already plotted two sequels. Plotted being the operative word. I HAVE PLOTTED. For me, this is revolutionary. I don't plot. I get lost.
But this is exciting.
As a side note, revisiting His Dark Soul I can't help but notice some themes and influences:
Ray Harryhausen - I'm pretty sure I've blogged before about how my love of classics started with Ray Harryhausens's Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. I've just realised that some of my scary places in my novels are massively influenced by him.
Madness. God, I love to write about madness!