Monday 12th June 2017
Editing the novel is currently a bit like going to the gym. There’s a huge part of you that’s put off by the idea. It’ll hurt, it’s a lot of effort. But at the same time you know it’s something you need to do in order to reach your goals. And once you’re there, yes it’s a bit of hard work and sometimes it hurts a little but it can also be enjoyable. Then you finish your session and feel incredible.
I’m not at the incredible stage… I’m at the lifting heavy weights and not knowing what I’m doing stage.
I’m acutely aware that it probably sounds like the edits aren’t fun. They are, but in the same way that going to the gym is fun. I’m definitely enjoying the challenge of cutting words and working out those tiny knots… but make no mistake, it is hard work.
My big issue really seems to be the start of the novel. This went through a lot of revision early on and as a result, the set up feels a bit forced in order to tick all the boxes I need for the rest of the novel to work. If I have learnt anything from this novel it’s that rewriting the front of the book is an incredible challenge that seems to continually try and bite you in the ass.
I’m only making some micro changes at this stage. Basically the hero just needs some more agency. The book should kick off with you enthralled with the character and their clever plan, rather than watching them stand around whilst things happen to them. OK, that might be a bit extreme, but the basic problem is that I need to adjust some things so that the hero feels more in possession of a plan rather than leaving things to chance.
And as a result, I constantly worry that these micro changes might somehow break what feels like the shaky logic of the plan. I *think* it all makes sense, but I’m not entirely sure and at this stage, I’m convinced that someone will drive a bus-sized plot hole right through the middle of our hero’s plans.
I’d rather be ruthless now, than ignore it only for readers to then complain. So I’m tweaking in the hope that anyone trying to poke holes will find that I’ve addressed the point, even if only with a brief sentence.
I continue to look at the marginal notes and consider every change. As expected, the vast majority of them make the novel better. As my agent says, less is more.
It occurred to me today that I think I know why there’s a bit of overwriting in parts of this book. I’ve tried to have slightly different voices for our hero when they are in high society and when they are being our masked hero. The masked hero is a little more coarse, whereas the socialite uses longer sentences and is a little more verbose. Part of that is because our hero isn’t comfortable with their socialite persona and so I think I drew on my own insecurities to inform it. And my insecurities revolve around my writing, and so I’ve found myself overwriting those scenes.
At least, that’s what I think might have happened. I have no idea if the subtly different voices even work. But the net result is that in those scenes there seems to be sentences and phrases I can remove.
I’ve trusted that I can do this without losing a sense of those different personas. The only two I’ve turned down is where I felt that something my agent thought a repeat of an earlier sentence was actually saying something a little different (in my opinion), and the other has been a repeated joke, which is no longer repeated as the original scene has now been changed and that joke removed as a result.
But the beginning still bothers me so I sent an update to my agent today. She’s there to bounce ideas off of, and whilst I haven’t bothered her because I’ve not needed to, I really need someone to pick at the logic and make sure it’s watertight.
She came back thanking me for being professional about it. I wonder how many people become divas about having their work edited? My personal view is that the novel is king and my ego doesn’t even get a look in. If a change makes the novel better, then it gets changed. Simple as that. My ego can ride the coat tails of any success the novel may find.
But this did remind me that I’m no different to any other author trying to make it. My struggles are not unique and look at how brilliantly their books turned out. Some days I joke that I think the novel is brilliant, but it just might not have the right writer. But at least this writer is happy to work with anyone.
It’s strange because there’s a large part of me that loves writing because of the autonomy, and yet I welcome professionals coming in and making suggestions to make it better. I guess it all comes back to the ‘novel is king’ thing.
So yes, the edits are still fun, and they are still very challenging, but that’s only because I want this novel to be the very best it can be. So, just like going to the gym, I’ll keep lifting those heavy weights, and groan and complain through all that heavy lifting. But mark my words, come the summer, this novel will have abs!
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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