Kaloskagathos

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Awesome word, huh? The only one from the very brief bit of Ancient Greek I studied that ever stuck. It’s the Classical expression of perfection in a person, and literally translates as ‘the beautiful and the good’. What they meant by that, beyond basic aesthetic attractiveness, was balance of skills and taste. Specifically, ‘nothing to excess’ – a phrase carved into the temple wall at Delphi, along with ‘know thyself’.

Good advice. Occasionally hard to follow, and I don’t just mean finishing off the bag of Maltesers by yourself. (Yes, you did, I found the packet.) I’ve been struggling to find balance and achieve perfection in two writing-related things lately. The first is in reading advice – there is TONS of advice on style, structure, subject, characterisation, grammar, dialogue and every other possible aspect of writing available in books, podcasts and blogs. You can read it until the cows come home and still make barely a dent. Some of it is actively helpful; some of it is just personal opinion (any advice I offer on this blog falls solidly into this category); some of it downright discouraging. Since approaching writing in a rather more structured way this year, the amount of time I’ve spent reading advice has upped considerably. I have no doubt that it’s improved my all-around knowledge of storytelling, but there comes a time when you have to stop and trust your own instincts. When is that time? When do you strike that balance? Good question – ask me another.

Okay… the next question, then, is when do you stop editing? Yeah, that’s a tricky one too. You can play with your manuscript forever, tweaking a word here and an ellipsis there. At what point do you say ‘It’s finished’ and walk away? No idea, but the temptation is there for me at the moment. Do I fight it and keep on going, or is Spiritus as good as it’s going to get? There’s another element of balance to think about, too – I’ve had some feedback from my betas on the edits that I made in the first round, and the feeling is that I’ve gone too far the other way. By adding explicit emotional reactions and thought processes, I have lost some of the spartan cleanliness of the lines and the opportunity for the reader to draw conclusions.

Now, given that I’m only on my second round of editing I’m pretty sure we ain’t done yet. The Harper Voyager deadline will almost certainly be the deciding factor on this one. In fact, given that they opened their doors today, I should probably be editing right now instead of blogging. Catch you later!

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