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…



I’m editing So the Doves, listening to next door’s dog bark and I thought I’d share some scenes with you that didn’t make the final edit and rewrites… (it’s a long process!)

First draft beginning… 

‘Quick,’ she said, her voice forcing its way through the phone, straight and as sharp as a beam of light, only heavy and gritty like wet cement. ‘Turn over to BBC1.’

My mother always spoke that way, a retired headmistress who still thought she was the only real grown-up in a world full of lunatic kids and resentful adults.

‘Hello to you too.’

‘Never mind about that, Marcus, have you done it? Can you believe it?’

I switched over, a bunch of people were sat on beige sofas talking at each other.

‘Well? Have you done it?’

‘Yes, mum, now what am I looking for?’ I stretched out my legs onto the coffee table in front of me, pushing an empty coke can out of the way.

‘Not what, but who. There, now. See who’s talking?’


There she was, a face I hadn’t seen for almost ten years. Right there, on TV, talking like the world was an open book and she knew all the words off by heart. Her name rolled across the bottom of the screen preceded by a fancy title.

‘She’s done well, hasn’t she?’

I don’t say anything, I watch her, her slow way of blinking, the slight turn of her head, the way she looks as if she is just outside of time, just beyond the world around her and is only here to observe. She smiles at a question the presenter asks, slowly, as if she’s in on a private and deeply serious joke.

‘She looks good.’

‘Doesn’t she just.’

Deleted scene

‘You never knew me at all. In fact you don’t know anyone do you? You know your problem? You see everything and everyone as flat stock characters. As types you can get the measure off and control. You’re a control freak. You want to be a journalist, but you never bother to really see someone. You project onto them.’ Melanie turned and started shoving clothes into her bag before turning back to Marcus. ‘When have you ever seen me with a bloke? When?’

‘You think you’re so clever, You think you know me, well you don’t and you’re not. You’re a jumped up tart, just like your mother. There now I’ve said it.’ He watched her expression dissolve.