Writing is easy. Step 1: Sit down. Step 2: Type. Step 3. Repeat.
Editing writing into a novel is harder:
Step 1: Realize that all the work you put into writing a novel is shit.
Step 2: Die a little inside.
Step 3: Hunker down and polish that turd into something worth reading.
But I produced a brilliant novel without editing, you may say. I’m going straight to Amazon Kindle or Goodreads or whatever ebook du jour is hot.
I challenge you to give that first draft to an author’s group. One with real published authors. One that will destroy your illusions and let you move on to editing. A writer’s intervention of sorts. “I love you, but your first draft is destroying our marriage and our children are embarrassed when you tell people you write.”
Anyway, this is about me, not you. Here’s the stages of editing that I went through for Project Dandelion.
1. Mechanical: This was simply looking for things like ‘be’ verbs (indicative of passive language), -ly adverbs (indicative of poor verb choice), punctuation errors, and typos. There were a ton of these problems.
If I start to read your book and find that you have these kind of mechanical issues, I assume that you didn’t think the book was worth editing. I, in turn, will assume the book is not worth reading.
2. Matrix of Character Actions: A writer friend suggested that I create a matrix (grid) with a row for each character and a column for each chapter and writer what was happening to each character each chapter. This revealed several pacing issues. Rewrite #1.
3. Beta Read 1: Several beta readers told me that they lost track of where they were. Each chapter bounced between two different worlds. I reordered the chapters to eliminate that issue. This revealed several pacing problems. Rewrite #2.
4. Beta Read 2: Several beta readers pointed out POV problems, self-serving story lines (that didn’t contribute to the overall story) and some heavy “tell, not show” issues. OH — and ineffective use of past perfect tense. More editing.
5. Rewrite #3: This is where I am now. I deleted 16,000 words and am adding several new chapters to make my book worth reading. Just because I write a book does not mean it’s worth reading and I want to write something that matters.
I should finish this rewrite in December. I’m going to go through line by line with another mechanical review and making sure my word choice is exactly what I intend to say. I’m then hiring an editor to do some of the grammatical heavy lifting.
The moral: Writing is easy. Editing feels like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill of Hades.
Look for Project Dandelion to be published in 2016.
Write Something That Matters.