For several years now, I’ve been making sure I only work on one project at a time, and that’s been working for me. I’ve got a few novels, short stories and one novella to show for it. The problem is that it has been so successful that I’ve now got a heap of things that need editing.
The thing about editing is that it is NEVER finished. If you pick up a piece and read it, even though you think you have edited it to death, you still want to make changes. So until a story is published (at which point I won’t read it again) it can always be tweaked.
My conundrum is that I want to get this editing done so I can get the work out, but I am also eager to write some new words. I had a new novel come to me a few weeks ago that is keen to get out, but I keep putting it on the back-burner while I finish the novella edit. But I know, really, after the novella edit I should re-visit my Jan-No-Wri-Mo novel. That will see me caught up until the end of the year.
I think it is time to go back to multitasking. I know I run the risk of never getting anything finished, that was the problem which set me on the one-project-at-a-time path in the first place, but I need to write some new words. I’m intrigued by these new characters waiting to come to life.
So maybe I can bend the rule to be one editing project and one new-words project at a time? Let’s see how I go. Wish me luck!
I have recently been editing a YA novella on my computer. I thought I’d done a pretty thorough job, so when I downloaded the calibre-ebook maker software, I decided to try this story as my first ebook. Chuffed that I’d managed to work out the software, I uploaded the ebook onto my kindle and took it on the bus with me the next day.
It is amazing how frustrating it can be to read a piece of your work in electronic format when you can’t edit it. I had barely got off the first kindle page and I found an error. A few pages on, a missing word. A bit later, an extra word. Then a word that was very nearly the right word, but it wasn’t the right word. All of this on a piece I thought I had thoroughly edited.
I printed a copy of the story on paper so that I could read it with a pen in my hand. I found a whole collection of other missed edits. I still haven’t found the missing word that I saw on my kindle read. I can’t tell you how much it bugs me that I know it’s in there somewhere and I can’t find it. I’ll need to read the kindle version again.
Something I’ll never understand is why we read different formats so differently. It seems that my brain is most likely to make auto-corrections when I’m reading on the computer. This is rather problematic given that I do most of my editing directly in Word. I pick up the most grammatical errors when reading on paper. And (apparently) I find the most typos when reading on kindle.
I’m lucky this story is only a novella, because I can see that I’ll be reading it many more times before it is actually ready for release. At least I should take heart in the fact that I still enjoy it despite all the re-reads. Maybe that will be the most important part of the edit of all; if I like it when it’s finally edited, then maybe it’s really ready?
Okay, so I’m assuming you want to be a novelist. Obviously if you love the short form or you write screenplays then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a novelist, then there is nothing that makes you feel more like an author than getting to the “The End” bit of a novel.
I’ve done it four times, and it is such a rush. The first three times I cried my eyes out when I finished. Not because bad stuff necessarily happened at the end, but just because it was the end. My time with those characters was over. They were now in the world, able to stand on their own feet and they didn’t need me anymore.
At least that’s how it feels at the time. Pretty soon they become like annoying family members who keep dropping around as you go through the editing process and watch the same scenes over and over again. Tweaking, re-tweaking and then totally re-writing.
When I tell people I write it is amazing how many of them say they too want to write. They then start telling me about the great idea they have for a novel. It’s incredible how many of them have not actually written a word of this novel. And that is, ultimately, what the difference is between a writer and a non-writer. Writers write, and get things finished.
Incidentally I think the only reason I didn’t cry on the last novel was because I knew it hadn’t worked, so it wasn’t really finished . That’s the novel I’m currently editing (very heavily). This time around I have connected with the characters so much more, so I’m confident there will be tears when I get to the end. Hopefully in the next fortnight or so.
This week I wrote about 15,000 words… about a form. Half of that was technical support information. The other half was a step by step user and administrator guide. There was no twist at the end, no edge or your seat horror, and it had a rather Hollywood end where everyone finishes with… a completed form.
Putting the red arrows and green ticks on the print-screens was the most exciting bit about writing the manual. I don’t think anyone will be uploading it to their kindle for late-night reading. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if anyone else actually reads it from start to finish. Even I found myself glossing over bits. I should have secreted away an offer of a chocolate frog just to see if anyone came to claim it (I have done that in a user guide once and it took over a year for anyone to spot it).
A lot of people have suggested to me that I should try to get a gig as a technical writer so I can write each day. After this week I realise, for me, that would be a really bad idea. When I got home each night, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a computer. So I’ve been doing paper edits instead while lying on the lounge. It was the least typing-version of writing I could come up with while still progressing my novel.
Building a form is fun. I get to layer logical rules over the top of each other to see if I can make the form work. It’s like playing a game. Writing about form is boring. So I’m going to stop saying that I want to be a writer, what I really mean is I want to be an author. This week taught me that they are NOT the same thing.
I know I’ve mentioned before that it amazes me how stories seem to pull themselves together when you write them, as if they already exist in their entirety and when you write them you are just uncovering what is already there. Well it happened again while editing this week.
In my re-read a couple of months ago I identified a question that was raised in the story and never answered. At first I thought it was too complicated to sort it all out so I was getting ready to cut all the bits that related to raising the question. Then, while laying in bed on Tuesday night, the answer came to me. More amazingly, the novel already had all the foreshadowing required to insert it.
The communal unconscious which (I’m sure) gifts us all these stories knew exactly what was happening and why the characters were doing what they were doing. It took me over a year to figure it out. I am stunned at how many hints were already placed in the book, hints I had no idea I was leaving. They just seemed right when the characters were living that part of the book.
So the edit to answer the question amounted to less than a half-chapter of re-writes for something that I think really contributes to the story. It is so addictive this story writing caper. I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it.
In my opinion, there is nothing exciting about editing. It doesn’t drive me to the computer like new words. New words are like a wave that you catch and ride and you have no idea how far or how long you are riding until you collapse on the shore at the end, exhausted. Editing is like wading through mud. Well that’s how it is for me.
To make things even more tedious I found a time glitch in my novel. It is a Were-story, so the full moon is pretty important, and I realised the date (which I never mention) has a full moon happening on a Friday when it can’t happen. I need my people to be people on that Friday night, not Weres. I was writing the story with the calendar up behind me, so I thought I had it covered, but I must have misread it. That’s what editing is for; double-checking everything and finding all the places where you got it wrong.
So two hours of research later I had new dates that would fit and keep my Friday human-only. Two hours of research that probably didn’t really need to happen because I never mention the date anyway, but I would KNOW that I had it wrong. Editing won’t let you keep going if you know you have something wrong. Editing nags a bit.
The up side is that editing does not require you to be overly motivated, this is red-pen work after all, so you can force yourself to do it in small snippets or large chunks, whatever time you can spare. For me I can stop mid-paragraph if I need to, so it means I’ll get it finished in the timeframe I set if I can keep forcing myself to sit down and do it.
The problem is I am getting a bit sick of being muddy, I’m keen to ride another wave.
I know many will disagree, but I think good editing can turn nearly anyone into a good writer. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to edit your work if you want to present your story in the best light possible. I just wish I didn’t hate doing it so much.
I’m editing the pantser novel at the moment, and just by the very nature of pantsing there is a lot of editing required. I have to insert foreshadowing, play up character traits to help make secondary characters more recognisable, sometimes insert them into scenes where they previously weren’t present and generally cut out any questions that were raised in the novel that I never went on to answer.
It is hard work.
It will be interesting to see how much longer it takes to edit the pantser novel compared with editing my more traditional planned novels, which generally just needed a prose tidy-up. I think what I am seeing now is the compromise that comes from the much faster pantser writing process. It is almost enough to put me off trying it again. Almost.
I know I have only recently written about habits in writing, but I want to give you my own recent example. With my pantsing novel I got into the habit of booking non-negotiable writing times, and that was non-negotiable with friends, family and me.
As much as I wanted to jump straight into the edit when I finished the first draft on the Friday night, I knew that to do it justice, I should let the novel rest for as long as possible. With the deadline I’m trying to hit looming, I set that rest time to be two days (but I’d normally recommend at least a month).
At first I was excited waking up on Saturday morning, knowing I had given myself the weekend off. My writing time on Saturday is normally 12-4 in the afternoon. I was getting antsy at 10:30 and I was sitting at the computer by 1pm. I wrote the novel summary and some related content. It was such a relief to be back at my desk.
On the Sunday I was determined not to write any novel-related content, I was to have the day off. That lasted until just after lunch as well. While I haven’t written anything to do with the novel I have just written all my blog posts for the month of August. Again, it feels like a huge relief to be writing.
I love that my writing times are now a part of my weekly schedule, and I will keep them going. I also am really glad that I have all my August posts written because I have just one little month to do all the editing of the entire novel. Wish me luck!
I’ve been thinking about my first novel a lot recently because I’ve had some ideas about how to improve it, but it would require a total re-write. That would be the fourth re-write and the tenth edit. I really don’t think I’m up for it.
I was talking to a friend about her first novel and she said that it was put in the bottom draw and will never surface again. She has not laboured over it improving it as she improves her craft. Then she said something that resonated with me; we never see the rehearsals of a play, we only ever see the final performance. She sees her first novel as one of her rehearsals.
If I was to start writing my first novel from scratch I would do it completely differently, changing both the structure and story, but then it wouldn’t be recognisable as my first novel anymore. When I look at the first novel I see so many ‘mistakes’ of story writing in there, even if I do still like the story.
So I think it is time to put it in the bottom drawer and move on. There are too many other novels in me to keep going back to my rehearsal. It is time to get onto opening night.
The Australian Horror Writers Association Short Story winners have just been announced – and I’ve got an honourable mention for my short story ‘Glow’. I am so excited that I’m almost shaking!
I started this story three times. I finally finished the first draft in March and two days later put it through my Adelaide writers group. There were problems with the story. I re-wrote it, re-wrote it and re-wrote it. Finally I subbed it to the competition nearly a whole week before the closing date (I was determined NOT to be the final entry as I normally am). By now I both loved and hated this story.
Then I got the news that there had been a record number of entries. There were nearly double the number of what they had received last year. My heart dropped. This story had been banging about inside my head for four years, why did I pick this year to give it life?
Of course you know the punch line, so I won’t labour the point, but I do have to give a massive thank you to Lilliana, Sam and Margot from my writers group for their fantastic feedback. I thought the story was finished and they all explained to me the many reasons why it wasn’t. It was a much better story after I added and cut what they suggested, and this honourable mention is proof of that.
For all of you out there who think a writers group will crush your creativity or box you into a style that is not yours, I want to say that’s rubbish. You have been going to the wrong writers groups. I’ve been a part of two so far and they have both taught me so much. I am a better writer because of them.