This little word puts the fear of God in a lot of writers. #amediting is an oft-seen hashtag frequently accompanied by wailing and proverbial gnashing of teeth. Many authors, me included, confess to a certain amount of dread when it comes to editing.
I wonder why. Because when it comes to it, I perversely enjoy it. Ignore the initial pain and frustration; once I knuckle down, I find the process quite exhilarating and ultimately rewarding.
My work process involves two broad types of editing. ‘Me’ editing, aka the author edit. And publisher editing, aka… well, publisher editing. Right now, for my second novel, I am working through stage one, ‘me’ editing.
Having let the manuscript rest for a good few months, I have taken another good, fresh look at it and got the red pen out. Why? Well, for one, I had to. I know Sophie’s Run is at least twenty-five thousand words too wordy for commercial publication, so they had to go. And second, because I wanted to. I felt the need. With a bit of distance, I wanted to go through my work and make sure that it still zings for me. There are certain things I learned from the publisher edits of Sophie’s Turn that I wanted to apply rightaway. I’ll talk about that some other time.
Me. Myself. And HER.
Today, I want to talk about this weird split personality that I have discovered. There’s me, and there’s The Other. My Inner Editor. She of the Ruthless Cutting Mindset. The Queen of Hearts.
So, the cutting. The bloodlet. That’s the part I dread and fear most. And yet surprisingly, it’s turning out to be quite easy. I appear to have grown a second head, one that is dispassionate and detached and ruthless. An Inner Editor has quite unexpectedly and without invitation taken residence in this new, second head of mine that isn’t even attached to my normal pair of shoulders. I kid you not—that’s exactly what it feels like!
I might be reading along merrily, quite enjoying myself, when my Inner Editor pipes up, quite brusquely—not to say, rudely—and instructs me to cut, cut, cut. “Can’t you see,” she’ll tell me in no uncertain terms, “that while this scene is fun, it’s also just excess fat? It doesn’t advance the plot, it’s not necessary. Take it out. Use it some other time.” Honestly, she really is like the Queen of Hearts, all Off With His Head (or rather, Out With The Scene!). Thus out come the scissors, and my office floor swiftly resembles a cutting room floor.
She’s usually right. It’s not that what I was written was bad, or wrong. On the contrary, I am quite often deeply attached to the scene in question. But if it’s not essential, then it has to go. If I can transplant the joke somewhere else, I will. If I can tell it in fewer words, I shall. And the end result: a pacy, fast, page-turning read (if I say so myself) that is better than it was before.
How much has she made me cut? I don’t know yet. I was going to start putting these edits into my manuscript in Word but owing to a small computer crisis, I’ve had a small delay. I can tell you, though, that I have cut at least four chapters; that there isn’t a page without at least five lines crossed out; and that a lot of excess verbiage has been clipped. I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve culled the required 25K but I don’t think I’m far off. And there are a few scenes that I have point-blank refused to take out (yet) even though Inner Editor was spitting with fury at my ignoring of her very relevant suggestions. These are my back up, my cushion, my fall back. With those, I will scrape over the all important finish.
I’m zinging with zest. I have this tingling in my toes that tells me I’m on to a good thing. The book feels sumptuous yet lean, luxurious and fast. Thank you, Inner Editor, and please forgive all the abuse I hurled at you. I love you, really.
Of course, this isn’t it. When I’m done, Sophie’s Run goes back to Sapphire Star again; my lovely publisher, has, of course, already read my second masterpiece, but now it’s time for the full-on, no holds-barred, all-out publisher edits.
Bring it on!
How do you approach editing? Do you have your very own Queen of Hearts sitting on your shoulder?