Editing began properly on the accidentally edited novel. It has not been a painless process. Here are five things I’ve learned about editing my own work.
1. I have no idea how to start a novel.
When I begin a first draft I chuck words on the page and hope for the best. I generally have no idea where the story is going to end up, nor just how neurotic my characters are going to be before they get there. Editing makes me question everything, including asking where I should begin and now I’m lost in the loop of tweaking the first sentence. They should begin in the middle of the action, not in dialogue, with no cliches… SO MANY RULES. They should begin where they begin. But where do they want to begin? Oh, crap, I have another 49,999 words of this rubbish to rearrange. Let me go and make a cup of tea and consume that entire bar of dairy milk.
2. It’s made me think I’m a terrible writer.
I’m forgetting very quickly that every first draft is bad and even published novels contain sections that the author or reader find a little unsettling. Ripping those out should be cathartic but as they mount up and almost outweigh the good bits, I’m wondering whether any of it was any good in the first place. Maybe it was all just bin fodder. Yes, even that bit I thought was the best thing I’ve ever written. And if that’s the case then what hope is there for the rest of this filler? Let me go and make a cup of tea and find the biscuits.
3. The red scribbles make me feel like I’m at school.
I wasn’t so great at school. I was weird and weird situations liked to follow me around, so any reminder of being a bit weird isn’t really welcome. There are so many of the red marks, too. So much cruft to tear out. Writing cruft in the first place isn’t a problem. It’s all part of the process. It’s a part of the process I actually quite enjoy, but cutting it is like wading through treacle. Mmm, treacle. Time for a cup of tea and a bit of treacle cake, yes?
4. Taking out the swearing reminds me how much I swear IRL.
Nothing makes you realise you use the f word too much like having to cut it out of your manuscript. I write like I talk when I’m drafting and if I’m having a bad day, that word crops up a lot. Yes, it helps to push the draft to that 50k word count goal, but take out the f word? The story just got a lot shorter. OK, I’ll make some f-ing tea.
5. The word count shrinks dramatically.
I should be cutting 30%. That’s the magic figure apparently, but my drafts tend to be on the short side anyway, so cutting 30% makes them even shorter which puts the stoppers on persuing a traditional publishing route. It’s really quite disheartening to see a section go from 2000 words to around 1200. That’s why I’m drinking tea and eating some crisps before I start, OK?
As you can see, I’ve done a lot of procrastinating around the editing process. A lot of tea has been drunk and I’ve probably consumed a few more (packets) of biscuits than I should have. I know chugging through this will be worth it. It’s going to hurt a lot but when this novel has me beaming with pride because people are gushing over it, it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, who fancies a cuppa?
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