Edit Pass Live Stage 2: Background Work

So, as anyone who’s following the Twitter will know, I finished the readthrough pass. It took a little longer than I’d like, but that’s how these things shake out.

I’m also sort of glad that I chose this particular book to do the live edit pass on, because hoo boy we’re going to have material for months. Continue reading

Edit Pass Live

Hey everyone. I’ve been away for a while because of Worldcon, but I’ve finally found some time to get things written.

That Little Nightmares series is about to start, I promise. But I’m also doing something else at the moment that I want to run concurrently, because it’s going to be a little patchier than the rest of the cohesive series-esque-type-things that I do. Continue reading

A Quick Editing Ramble

I’m currently going through the editing process, so hang onto your butts, boys, girls and others, because ranting may happen.

Confession: I love the editing process. I love everything about it: I love the satisfaction of fixing problems with my writing, I love the tweaking and the rewriting, I love watching the wordcount change as I add or remove scenes, and I sure as sugar love complaining about it constantly.
Isn’t it great? It’s the one part of writing writers are allowed to both unironically love and unironically hate at the same time. You sit there and you bang your head or hands against the keyboard, cursing yourself for being so stupid as to write this tripe in the first place, and then feel all warm and glowy once you’ve fixed a problem.
I feel like editing is the one place in writing where novel writers have actual milestones to work towards. If you’re anything like me as a writer, you have no idea how long the story’s going to be when you’ve finished. This is referring to novel writing only, obviously – academic writing, journalism, and anyone who writes to short story submission criteria can safely ignore this section. But even outliners, who have a very certain idea of where the story will go, often don’t know the actual wordcount for their finished piece. I always “aim” for around 90,000 words, that is, whenever anyone asks me how long my book will be, or when I’m considering how many months the first draft should take, I use 90,000 words as my estimate. My actual book lengths? Vary from about 83,000 words to about 107,000 words (as of current drafts). This means, while you can sit down and go “Yes! I finished another 10,000 word milestone!”, it feels a little meaningless, because it doesn’t actually tell you how much closer to your goal you are. You have no goal.
Editing, on the other hand? I have a little red list of all the problems, and when one is fixed, I cross it off the list. It’s really easy to see how far along I am. I fixed four problems with my novel this week – that’s 5% of my 86-problem list!! At this rate, I’ll be done in 20 weeks!

Or, at least, it could if THE DARN LIST WOULD STOP RESPAWNING.

Big edits throw all these lovely things I just said out of the window, because there is nothing a writer can possibly do that will stop a big edit messing up a whole lot of smaller edits along the way. Restructure your book so the pacing is tighter? Get ready to go back and fix all the continuity errors! Kill a character at the end of the book? Yay, retconning your foreshadowing! Remove scenes and themes? Hope you remember where all the references to that are, because you’re going to be picking them out of the story like Cthulhu picks souls out of its teeth after a meal.

The upshot of this is: If you ever have a writer friend, and you’re waiting on their book to get through edits, please understand that whatever time frame they give you will likely expand, probably by three months at least. They’re not trying to annoy you. They’re just playing infinite whack-a-mole against their brain.
But I swear they’re probably enjoying it anyway.

A Little Note on Editing … and on Giving Up

First off, as I write, it’s 2:41 on Christmas morning, so happy whatever holiday you celebrate on or around this date … and if you celebrate none of them, then just have a great day anyway.

I plan to spend my Christmas day with packing my bags to go home, and editing a novel.  Oh, and delicious food might figure in there somewhere.
Such a party animal.

At any rate, quick blog post because it’s been a few days.

So, I’m editing a novel.  One that I wrote.  I last worked on this novel about four months ago now – beginning of September was when I put the hard copy manuscript down.

Or rather, I shoved it into a corner and then buried it under other things, like another manuscript.  I had finished.  Done.  It wasn’t ever going to be published.  The problems were too big.  I would take what I learned and move on.  No shame in that – it would be the third manuscript to get that treatment.  The first I began when I was 11, and … we don’t talk about it anymore.  The second I began when I was sixteen, and although the characters were excellent (many people were disappointed when I gave it up), it was a 75,000 word novel with about 10,000 words of actual plot in it.  The rest was … just character development.  Neither of these stories I regret giving up.
I thought this novel would be the same.  It had plot holes you could have driven a procession of camels, acrobats, and a Mariarchi band with elephants for trumpeters through.  I had an entire character (and character arc) who would need to be scrapped and rewritten.  About half of it needed to be entirely rearranged, whole arcs and sections rewritten.  Characters needed to be removed.  Other characters needed more screen time.  And at the end of that, I still wasn’t sure if it’d be any good, anyway.  It just seemed like there were too many things to fix, and too many that could go wrong.

Of course, as I said, I picked this novel back up.  I still shudder when I look at all the work that needs doing.  I have about three lists sitting here from when I was in the process of figuring exactly which angle to come at all the problems from, and which problems to tackle first.  I’ve deliberately moved excising and rewriting a main character to about halfway down the list – I should probably do it first, but I feel like I need to warm up to it – like stretching before an exercise.  I’m going to pull a writing muscle if I try attacking this beast cold.
But then, tomorrow, I might feel like I need to just dive in, like that first moment in the shower when you turn on the water and get blasted by the freezing water until the pipes are clean and it heats up to a reasonable temperature.  I hope I do.  It would be nice to get that out of the way.  Stop me cringing every time I read a scene with that character in it.

Thing is, I now have two other manuscripts, with far less work to salvage them into something readable.  Both need the beginnings rewritten, sure, but it’s not the huge epic disaster that this novel is.  So, why didn’t I decide to leave this one lost?  Chalk it up to experience and let it go?

Well … put simply, I loved the other characters too damn much.  There is a trio of characters in this book that just make me so gleeful whenever they get together.  Character 1 takes himself too seriously, Character 2 takes Character 1 too seriously, and Character 3 doesn’t take anything seriously at all.  They’re all quite smart and articulate characters, too, so whenever I get any combo of them in a conversation together, things just go right.  And I can’t take them out of their story context.  They just wouldn’t be the same, and they wouldn’t be themselves.  It’d be a crime.

And so, the story is getting rewritten, chopped up, glued together, cannibalised and reconstructed.  Purely and simply for the sake of these three characters I couldn’t bear to let go.

This is why I recommend never burning bridges – don’t delete that story file, even if you’re certain it’s the worst thing in the universe.  The things you loved about that story to begin with may demand that you bring them back.

Except for that story I started when I was 11.  I’m very glad I lost the file for that one.
Nobody tell me they’ve found it.  It’s the holidays, for goodness’ sake.