I always say editing is my favourite part of writing. I usually fail to mention that editing is also the LONGEST part of writing – at least, for me. It can be tedious, petty, and a fantastic opportunity to make me realise that I’m a rambling, un-funny, grammatically incontinent nincompoop with jelly for brains. But editing can also be the opposite. Inspiring, surprising, satisfying and, sometimes cathartic as well.
Now, planning’s the easy part. Not that I stick to them. Best laid plans, and that. Writing? I’ve completed NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Even if I take it slow, I can finish a draft (of questionable quality) in five to eight weeks. And as for research? Come on. I’m a writer. My whole life is research. I research for fun. Those headphones? Not playing music, chum. I’m listening to strangers’ conversations on the train. Oh yeah.
It’s been two years. No, I’m not exaggerating. It’s really been more than two years since I started writing my second novel. Don’t look at me like that. I’m alright, really. I’m on the fifth draft, and this one still has a few holes in. And by holes, I mean, I didn’t finish writing those parts yet. Literal holes. Blank spaces where words should be, and angry notes that say finish this bit soon!!. Stop looking at me like that.
My first couple of* drafts are what I use to adjust the plot. Fill in gaps, add scenes, take away scenes, and make sure the chronology and story logic add up. That’s right – my plans rarely pan out the way they should. And that’s the first thing I love about editing. There’s still room for surprises. Some of my best ideas don’t make it into my writing until halfway through the process, or even nearer the end.
For comparison, my first completed novel took about five years from start to finish. I must have scrapped** about 75,000 words. That’s 50% longer than the entire first draft. But I edited piecemeal – so slowly that, at first glance, it might have looked as though I was doing absolutely nothing at all***. But as well as editing the manuscript, I was editing the plan.
Eventually, the plan becomes the chapter breakdown. The outline for the whole book. That’s my method. Architects can’t muck about with blueprints after they’ve built the foundations****. But I can. Ha, ha.
By the end of the fifth draft, I’m aiming to have a fully-fledged story, seamless from start to finish. Almost no missing pages. Almost. (I had to have an early night that night. My hands were tired. Too much typing, you see.) My editor is currently feeling less than a hundred percent well (get better soon!) thus probably, secretly, a little bit glad that my next book isn’t ready to be edited yet. And that’s alright. I’m not ready to be done with it yet. We have a mutual understanding.
But the most enjoyable aspect of editing is, by far, polishing something to the point that it is presentable. Like, remember your first day at school, with your shiny new clothes/uniform/bag/pencil case/whatever? That’ll be the book. Nurtured and grown and ready to interact with other people. After editing, my own editor will take over, and after I’ve done that, it’ll be time for beta-reading.
Waiting for people to beta-read? Now that’s looooooooooong*****.
N.B. You might have noticed that the blog is looking a little sparse at the moment. That’s because I’m starting from scratch. I never really know what to put here, but I’m going to make an effort to try. Check back soon!
* Shut up.
** Never delete. I pop them into a spare document for future reference.
*** Shut up. Maybe I was tweeting. That’s writing. Mini writing. Economy-class writing. Tweeting is just economy-class writing. You can tweet that if you @ me.
**** I would imagine, but correct me if I’m wrong!
***** I jest, of course. Take your time. Please. Not too much time though. What?