Monday, 26 January 2015

The Red Pen of Annihilation

Monday, 26 January 2015
Okay, so perhaps not quite the right word, and perhaps a little dramatic. But that’s what the editing process sometimes feels like – like you’re completely ripping into your story and changing it. I’ve just finished the second draft of The Day It Rained so I thought I would talk a bit about editing. 

This is only the second time I’ve edited a whole novel, as this is only the second novel I have finished! It seemed like a daunting task the first time, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Every writer has a different method of re-drafting. Some people completely tear their books apart and re-order everything. I tend to plan so much beforehand that the basic order of events already make sense (hopefully, anyway) so the structure is all sorted.  

First when I edit, I print out my novel and put it in a ring binder, and then I read through it with a red pen. I don’t usually do this right after finishing writing it. I think it is good to have a break (maybe months, maybe even a year) so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Once I have read it through the marked on grammar errors or things I think need changing/improving, I type up the second draft. 

Most advice says not to worry about grammar and sentence-level editing at first and to focus on the bigger picture. I prefer to do it the other way around. I can’t stand to have a draft that isn’t grammatically correct so I tend to edit the wording and sentence structure type things first. 

It is really hard to see yourself where your novel needs improving sometimes, so I always get feedback from other writers, because they always seem to find things that I never would have spotted myself. 

The question I always wonder about, is how do you know when you’ve edited enough? How do you know when your manuscript is ready? After all, there’s no such thing as perfection, so how do you know when to stop? I don’t know the answer to this question. The Water That Sings is halfway through a third draft and, as said before, I just finished a second draft of The Day It Rained. I’m not sure where to go with them next, so I think the way forward is to get some people to read them and see what they say. 

In some ways, the editing process is harder than actually writing the book! At least, that’s what I find anyway. This is partly because I don’t want to ruin it by changing something and making it worse, and also it’s hard to see what needs working on when it is your own writing. As writing takes practice, so does editing. 


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