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What I’ve learned about editing a novel



It’s been a while since I’ve popped in here for a chat. Actually, it’s been a while since I did anything but edit a novel.

Editing/rewriting/revising/redrafting – call it what you like, the process is different for all writers. And with each redraft, the process is different. This is something I learned during draft number nine of manuscript #2 – aka as Facing Home, now known as Never Tear Us Apart (new working title).

Editing this time round was less like rewriting, and more like editing/redrafting. The previous passes over my novel were massive rewrites and focused heavily on getting the structure into shape. That’s not to say they were successful or unsuccessful. Every pass is necessary. And every draft can have a different purpose. My only hope is the more I do this, the better I’ll get at it. Maybe one day, I’ll be a three – four draft writer. Maybe I won’t. Who knows?

I went into this draft with fear. Fear of not being able to crack it. Not being able to wrangle the story into something that is worth continuing. I have spent a long time on this story and this was my final attempt. If, by the end of it, I still wasn’t happy with the progress (or worse, if there still wasn’t any progress), that was going to be it. This story would die.

Fortunately, the edit went well. Surprisingly well. And when I pressed the send button to shoot it across cyberspace and into my editors inbox, I was happy. I knew I had made the story better. I had made progress. And more to the point, I knew it was ready for a more experienced eye to pick apart.

I’m not expecting pages of great feedback from my editor. I’m expecting there will be lots of things to work on. Structural issues (still), plot holes, character arcs to get right. But, I feel it’s worth persisting with. There is a worthwhile story within the words.

Editing a novel is hard work. It is mentally challenging and emotionally draining. It sucks all of your time and by the end you feel like your brain is mush and you have turned into a living zombie. Well, that’s how I felt. But, it was a good feeling, if that makes sense!

I used to hate the editing process. I used to scoff at authors who’d say how much they loved it. Now, although I’m not quite at the ‘loving’ it stage, I am realizing how much I enjoy it. There is something immensely satisfying about starting with a messy manuscript and ending with something that almost resembles a plausible novel.

I enjoyed it so much, that instead of take a break like I had planned, I have jumped straight into the next draft of manuscript #1, aka Rest Stop (working title). I’m approaching this with fresh eyes as it’s been about a year since I last laid eyes on it. This one I’m tackling a little differently. I’m reading it through as a reader from start to finish, only taking a few notes as I go. And I will take it from there.

Again, there’s no right or wrong way, and no one way to edit or redraft. And it gives me peace to know that now. It make is much less daunting.



Next time: What I learned from setting myself a deadline