What Editing Feels Like

As of today, I have edited forty-five pages.

Once I completed my draft, I did what most writers do– I put my precious novel (bestseller, of course) away for a few days and tried not to think about it. The problem was I could not stop thinking about it! I knew I had left some plot points straggling and would have to pick them up and intertwine them throughout the story. Where did I drop these important tidbits? How would I pick them up again without changing major chunks of the story?

What if I had to start the entire story over because of one straggler?

This kind of thinking exhausted me. I knew I needed to take a step back.

Monday, the day after I wrote The End on page 305, I had this insurmountable urge to look at chapter one, or maybe just the first page or first few paragraphs. But, I stopped myself, because it felt like I was too close to the story. It’s dangerous for a writer to edit when they feel like they are a part of the story rather than its creator.

Tuesday, I decided I would start editing on Wednesday. I needed more distance.

Wednesday, I decided it was still too soon to start. My final decision was that I would start editing when it felt right.

Thursday felt like the right time to start looking at my novel through critical editor eagle eyes. So many questions came to mind. Will my hook catch the reader’s eyes, keep them reading? Are spelling and grammar correct? Do I use adjectives and adverbs sparingly? Are my sentences, paragraphs and scenes clear, and do they convey what the reader needs to know? Do I have unnecessary repetition in my story? Do I write distinctive voices for my characters, which means lean dialogue tags? Am I writing tight and lean sentences? Am I too wordy in some places?

Sheesh, the list continues into oblivion!

When editing, I need to be willing to kill off some of my darlings that do not belong in the story (actually, we don’t really kill them off, we just past them to a documents titled Little Darlings for Future Use). If a scene, character, or minor plot point does not work within the larger picture, I must let them go.

After editing– which I am doing by hand, and then rewriting in my word processing program– my goal is to start looking for an agent. I don’t want to circulate substandard work. I want my manuscript to be as close to perfect as I can get it. I want to leave as little work for an agent, editor or publisher as I can. It’s the writers’ job to know how to write.

Time to get back to editing. Happy writing all!

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