Tuesday 6th May 2017
I’ve been editing in an entirely new way today.
Usually, when I have a major edit to do, I’ll start at the beginning and work my way towards the end. I like working that way as it gives me somewhat of a sense of security. It means that I can check the flow of information, that something presented in chapter 3 isn’t then presented as new information in chapter 30.
But as I dive heavily into the edits for Black as Knight (version 13.0 for those who care) the changes I need to make are a little different to prior edits. Previously there were changes that I needed to make across the entire novel. Now, the changes I need to make are to specific scenes.
And so, I’m editing a little differently. Instead of starting at the beginning and going chapter by chapter towards the end, I’m diving into those specific scenes and working on them in isolation.
On one hand, it’s exciting to be working with new methods. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this process is learning how to edit. I’ve been blessed with being able to write pretty solid first drafts. There’s a lot of the Four Realms that is first draft, and even The Climb doesn’t get much more than a typo edit each day.
But it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s meant that I’ve never needed to learn how to properly edit. When I have attempted to do so, I’ve never been sure what it is that I’m supposed to do and it sometimes feel like, to make use of a crude analogy, that I’m pissing into the wind.
The work on Black as Knight has certainly forced me to learn more about the process of editing, and that’s been both a challenge and certainly fun. I’ve always wanted to get editing processes together the same way I’ve developed processes for my writing, and this experience is certainly pushing me in that direction.
But by the same token, just diving in and making major edits to scenes is incredibly scary. I worry that I’ll change some fact I reference later and the whole novel will unravel before me. It’s one of the big things I’ve been mentally gearing myself up for whilst on Chasepalooza – to get over that fear and be confident to approach these edits this way.
The thing that’s put me at ease is the fact that I still have a line edit to do after this, where I do need to go over the novel from beginning to end. I’ve told myself that I’ll find and fix any continuity problems there.
But diving into making changes to the novel’s start today, it’s still been a scary prospect. In this first chapter, all I really need to do is a little work on agency and make my hero’s plan a little more solid. This has been the most challenging change, possibly because it’s right at the start, and the rest of the novel cascades out of this. I spent a lot of time when driving across the US thinking about how to resolve this scene and came up with some minor changes to back story in order to make this happen.
Yet, it still feels like I’m about to do open heart surgery on a patient who isn’t properly sedated. I’m worried I’m going to break the novel or introduce some huge plot hole and have felt a bit panicky as a result.
To combat this, I’ve taken it slow. I gave myself a couple of days to get this scene changed, reminding myself that I keep copies of all the previous versions so if I do totally screw it up I can do something to resolve the issue. And then, taking a deep breath, I’ve dived in.
I’ve taken frequent breaks. I’ve been far from my most productive. At first I was a bit frustrated at my ability to do a little work then walk away and do something totally unproductive, but I eventually became accepting of this. Best that I take baby steps and find my confidence rather than rush into it and create a mess.
And so that’s what I’ve been doing today… going into this scene and making a couple of changes, then walking away and thinking about them.
I’m not sure if the changes I’ve made are good, or even consistent with the rest of the novel, but you know what? I don’t care. I’m too involved to be able to judge quality right now. All I can do is make the changes and trust that when I come to doing the line edit, future-me has the skill to identify and fix any problems.
I used to hate that. If something didn’t feel right, either because I was just outside my comfort zone or because it was wrong, I’d stop and agonise. I’d spend weeks thinking about it, refusing to progress until I got it right. I’d never think to punt the issue forwards. That always somehow seemed counter-intuitive to me.
But I’ve learned to trust the future me. Now-me is here to get something down, future-me is waiting to polish up further down the road.
And so I’m more comfortable, doing something and then worrying about whether it is good or bad later on, when I’ve scheduled time for future-me to do just that.
It’s meant that I’ve become faster at editing. I don’t feel I’m screwing over future-me, because that’s now future-me’s job.
As a result, it means I move faster. Even with the constant breaks, the walking away and doing something else for an hour before coming back, I’ve not only managed to do this scene but the flashback scene as well.
With a late start tomorrow, I’d planned to work pretty late tonight just to get that first scene done. Instead, I finish early having done two scenes.
As a result, I’m feeling pretty good and much more comfortable with this editing process. If I can get another scene done tomorrow, I might be able to get the majority of the scene edits done by the end of the week. That would be awesome. As you know, I desperately want to get this stuff done pretty fast and whilst I have some really complicated changes ahead (including merging three chapters into one) I feel like I can actually blast through this without rushing it.
I’ll still be interested to see whether these changes bring any major continuity issues or not. As I say, it’s all a learning process and it’s both fun and terrifying at the same time.
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