So I have started the daunting task of editing my novel – all ninety-thousand words of it. I was dreading it for a long time, putting it off in favour of a smaller work, or in continuation of the new novel; but I could hear its voice whispering to me from the box-file that was sitting under the bed: “It’s time,’ it said in a hushed tone.
I pulled it out, worried about what I might find: would I like it? Would my writing style have changed? Would the characters feel rounded? Would I still give a shit about any of it?
Now the first few pages, (particularly the first paragraph) of anything I write needs quite a bit of re-shaping. It’s where the initial spill off an idea falls onto the page, and like any spill, a lot of it needs to be wiped up for sanitary reasons. So I hit this bit hard, got the prose tight, syntax slick, and after a little while I found I had the beginnings of a story; not a bad one either, (I thought anyway).
Then the story starts to flow and the editing becomes finer and I can feel the cleansing process begin. I’m washing away the dirt of the first draft and letting the story shine.
Now I think that one of the reasons that it took me so long to getting around to editing this story, (I finished writing it just before christmas; but it is probably the right length of time thinking about it now), is because I felt that I was treading old ground with it. And that is the trouble. As I’ve mentioned before, time at the moment is a little bit precious, so I have to be clever with it and ration it out carefully, and that means that returning to an old story, in favour of a new one, feels like I’m not creating anything new, and that I wouldn’t really be writing. But I was wrong. As I was editing, I realised that this was where the real writing was taking place; the first draft was just getting the story out – this was crafting and shaping words into nicely formed sentences and paragraphs, which is, after all, what writing is all about.
So my view of editing has changed. I don’t see it as a laborious and necessary re-trudging of old ground, but as an integral and vitally important part of writing that works towards cementing the story firmly in place. I know that this might sound obvious, but to me it’s good to feel that shift and believe it, too.
I hope that this positivity last through until the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh draft.
Any thought on this process yourselves?
- Staying Interested in the Editing Process (lissywrites.com)
- On Revision (christinajoneswriter.com)
- Beginnings are hard, yo (crazyinkslinger.wordpress.com)
- Some Thoughts on Editing (rbpierce2483.wordpress.com)
- What an editor looks for before taking on a project (leannesype.wordpress.com)
- How to murder your darlings – in just 5 steps (jilllondon.wordpress.com)