Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Challenge of Editing

At the moment I'm editing a novel I wrote and finished just before Christmas.  Writing a little every day, it took me just five weeks to get my story out ..... but I'm wondering just how long the editing is going to go on for!  I've still got bits to add in, additions to the storyline that had occurred to me once I'd 'finished'.  I know I have that to do and I'm prepared for it.... even looking forward to it, but with each reading I spot something to change, delete or add to, which I think will improve it.  I wonder how many sessions it will take for me to be satisfied with the 'still-to-be-finished' article!  

Does anyone have any advice on editing or would like to share personal experience? 


  1. Hi! I think editing is something you just don't think about when you start writing novels but in fact can be as much work as the writing itself. Walter Mosley in his great book This Year You Write Your Novel says that the hard work begins with editing! He also gives some great advice - and it's a very slim book so worth getting. I've blogged alot in the past about editing - don't know if any of it would help

  2. Hi Eliza! The only thing I'd add to what Avril's said is to regurgitate a bit of advice from Stephen King, to have a break between finishing writing and beginning editing, (he suggests 6 wks) so you can look at your story with fresh eyes.

    Given that I've never managed to publish any of my works of 'genius', I'm not a good person to speak up ;-)

  3. Hello Avril Joy. Thank you for the recommendation of Walter Mosley's book... he's certainly right about when all the hard work begins. I've put it on my Amazon wish list as I've already spent my quota for books this month. :D I've also had a look at your blog.... there's lots of good reading and advice for me to go back to. Thank you. :)

    Hi Sam. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors! I've read the bit you quoted in his book 'On Writing', which I think is full of good common sense advice..... and the bit he wrote about his accident was engrossing, though gruesome. :O) I've only just began editing my novel, so I've had a few weeks break from the writing and I'm keen to get on with the 'real' work now. :D You say you've never managed to publish any of your works..... why not consider publishing them as e-books? I think this is the way forward in publishing. Although many people still like to have actual physical books, I think in the near future most people will be downloading them instead. At first I wanted to aim to get my book published by conventional means but I'm beginning to warm to the idea of e-publishing.

  4. Yes, I think e-book publishing has a lot going for it, and I never thought I'd say that, Eliza!

    For me though, I'm afraid I have officially written rubbish up until now. Frustrated by my efforts to find an agent, I spoke to a well-known author for advice. She suggested a literary consultant whom she'd used herself.

    I contacted said consultant, sent off my darling manuscript, and waited with bated breath. But her verdict wasn't kind... Dreadful plot, awful characterisation...

    I nearly gave up entirely, this wasn't my first attempt, so evidently I must be awful. But I didn't. I got uppity, and fired off what I thought was a serious rewrite, and sent it back to her, really with the aim of showing her how mistaken she was, and how brilliant I am.... She rubbished it too.

    So you see, once upon a time I might have seriously thought about e-publishing, but I'm too busy fretting over whether or not there's any point in persevering in my quest to write a decent, publishable novel!!!

  5. Hey Sam, don't take her word for it. Stephen King says he banged a nail in his bedroom wall and every time he got a rejection slip, he stuck it on the nail, which got so full that the rejection slips were piling up on the floor..... and look where his writing career has gone! In fact, Stephen King's first book, 'Carrie' would never have been published if his wife hadn't fished it out of the waste-paper basket. And Sarah Water's book 'Fingersmith' was rejected umpteen times before Virago published it. Stop fretting and keep writing! :D

    I'm like you.... I thought I could never favour e-publishing as I like real books so much, but I suppose we have to move with the times.

  6. Good point Eliza, I prefer real books, but my x-hub is a gadget-geek, and forever telling me I ought to get i-books or kindle - I think the world must be divided into two camps on that subject.

    And thanks for the encouragement, its just what I needed to see after a day spent busy 'not-writing'. Thing is, I can kid myself I'm going to stop trying, but I always end up having another go. One day... one day!

  7. Sam, e-publishing was featured in November's issue of Writing Magazine. Here is their web address:

    You'll be able to get a back issue from them if you want. It explains it really well, on things like why you should write an ebook, how to create your ebook and how to sell it. In the article it says that even well-known authors are selling more ebooks than traditional ones.

    I'm glad I was able to encourage you.... once a writer, always a writer. :D

  8. Eliza, you encouraged me so much, I was able to get on and do more today than I have done for ages. Thank you xxx

  9. Stephen King's advice to leave a manuscript for six weeks before tackling the editing makes a lot of sense (I believe Aristotle recommended nine years!)You have to come at it cold, prepared to chuck out your best lines and your best scenes if they don't serve the story in someway.
    I think of the first draft as being like a sculptor amassing her raw material, picking the marble, hewing it into rough shape. The editing allows teh story to shine through....
    I think a lot of writing goes through three edits before it's ready (if you're lucky the third one will be more of a polish suggested by your agent or editor).
    Sam, rejection is hard and I don't think you ever get used to it. From what you say I thnk two things are possible:
    i The consultant's right - this manuscript isn't publishable. That doesn't mean it was a waste of time to write. It was part of your apprenticeship as a writer: very few first novels are actually that - most authors have earlier work at the back of a drawer that they just couldn't get to work but it helped them to move on, to grow as a writer. (True for me and countless others.)
    ii This manuscript is worth fighting for and teh consultant just doesn't get it - but others will Tobias Hill said he adopted a hydra attitude to rejection, each time a poem didn't win a competition or was rejected for publication he sent out nine more...Now you can't exactly do that but his stubborn chin forward attitude is something you could emulate. Remember they are publishers who can't sleep at night because they held Harry potter in their hands and turned it down

  10. Thank you for the advice Bridget. I like the hydra example. :D


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