Thoughts on Editing…

I’m still editing my next novel, So the Doves… of course.

Editing is the writing, all writing is rewriting. Right?

And you think it would be easier than writing the first draft. Shouldn’t it? The material is already there, you aren’t having to create a new world, new characters with complexities and drives and frailties and strengths. You’re not navigating the plot or wondering how to finish.

By now you’re polishing and smoothing, getting rid of excess, honing the language, teasing out the key dynamics of the scenes… aren’t you?

Excimgres-1ept I’m not. I’m tinkering. I’m wrangling sentences till they dry and crumble. I’m beginning to hate my novel. I can’t see it clearly, and I feel lost in all the words. I’m too close. I read other authors and hold their work up as mirror against my own… and the reflection isn’t pretty. At all.

I want to give up.


Talking to other writers, my students and academics, I know I’m not alone here.

So what to do?

  • Take a break from it. Put it away, for at least a month.
  • Read, walk, walk TV, think, laugh. Live.
  • Don’t panic!
  • Share your work with trusted peers (even if you have a wonderful editor, like I have, I still like to get thoughts and constructive feedback from readers I trust and respect)
  • Print it out and read it through from start to finish. Don’t be tempted to start picking at it piecemeal.
  • Does it work as a whole? Any plot/structure problems to work on? Fix those first.
  • Read your feedback from peers/editor. Does it resonate? What will you incorporate into your edit?
  • Now open the doc, and start the edit – start on the big stuff (copy editing comes last)
  • Don’t compare your work to anyone else’s, you’ll feel miserable (or the opposite, cocky, which is worse) and it’s of no use to you now. This is your work, so it should be different.
  • Put it away again. Follow point 2. Let it rest.
  • Re-read..
  • How is it? I’m willing to bet it’s much better than you think…
  • But don’t be disheartened if you need to edit again, and again.
  • Writing is re-writing…

Onwards! Let me know how you get on…

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