Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cruel World of Editing

Yes I know, it doesn't seem long since my last 'editing' post, but editing is a bit like most crazy things that invade your life, it sort of takes over, because everything is structured around either 'doing it', or 'not doing it'.  Now just to clarify here, when I use the term 'editing', I am not talking about fixing the final draft, I am talking about writing the second draft better than the first!!!

In part, I am happy enough with things, despite having to drag myself to the keyboard more than once this week, progress was achieved, although I am wondering should I be brave enough to read the three chapters that I have edited so far, in case the dreaded 'all morning to put in a comma and all afternoon to take it out again' phrase might start ringing alarm bells.

So maybe this is a good time to tell you one of the many things that I have learned about editing, (I imagine, I still have an awful lot more to learn), which is that each change of sentence has a ripple effect.  For example, you put the word 'had' in a sentence, because you left it out first time around, and then you end up with too many 'hads' on a page, or you change the content or emphasis of a sentence, only to discover that it doesn't sit nearly as snugly with the surrounding sentences anymore, or even worse, frustration sets in, and you start deleting at speed perfectly good sentences, cause, well you just do.  Now, I know this is something that I recognised before, namely in editing short stories, poetry, the odd dabble at play writing and so on, but somehow it takes on a whole new dynamic, when changes, especially of emphasis, or shifts in mood start to influence a novel.  You have to remember that on page 19, chapter 2, you already made a subtle reference to a particular thing, so you can't repeat this reference on page 220, chapter 33, if you get my drift.

I have also learned, which I should have known already, and in way of course I did, that apart from sharpening up your work, you are adding another layer, a small detail here, a question there, a smell or sound, things that first time around did not exist in this fictional world that is THE NOVEL, but again the scale is the scary thing, because you know that as a reader, you have gone through 100 pages of a novel, and wondered why the writer is telling you that small detail again that they told you 100 pages earlier!

(I feel more notepads coming on to replace the dozen or so I had on the first draft!!!!)

Finally, I have discovered something about myself, although as yet, I am not sure if it is a good or a bad thing.  I have discovered, that I like to divide and conquer, but starting with the little conquests first. 

Grammar, getting rid of cliches (all two of them that I found) etc got tackled first, then came sharpening of sentences, then came small details popping in here and being taken out there, then came odd moments when my characters started to wear new clothes, and started to walk around the place like they have just been given a makeover from one of those 'What not to wear' programmes, and finally I turn to the big things, which is where I am at now, needing to completely somersault Chapter 1, make a small paragraph in Chapter 3 become a major turning point, and fix a passage of time in Chapter 2, so the reader is brought back 'clearly' to a point that happened 2 pages earlier.

Okay, you are getting to realise how mad I have become, so just in case someone starts to send the men in white suits around, I am not despondent about all the big things I still have to do, because tomorrow I have a free day from all activities except editing, so I am going to set up camp early, and work to the finish or the death, or whatever, god awful hour, it takes me to get the darn thing done.  

Please note, when I say 'done', I mean fixing Chapters 1-3, not the whole thing!!!!!


  1. Good Gracious! I truly salute you. And shall stick to the sonnets.

  2. Good Gracious Titus, I am truly mad!

  3. Hope you enjoyed your day of pruning! You hit on the truth about editing, its a really fussy affair...
    if I add a word or cut a sentence it changes everything on the page, but I dont discover that till I've printed it out.

    I think you are secretly enjoying it though, and when the men in white suits come around your only concern is how they'll affect the plot!

    All the best!

  4. Thanks Words A Day! Not doing as much pruning as I hoped, and maybe I do enjoy it in parts, at least when things work out I do. Happy pruning!


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