Editing

There are different types of writers. Some like to write and rewrite and rewrite endlessly, refining gradually, each draft a little more perfect than the last. I am not that type of writer. I am the type of writer who likes to get it right first time and then move on to the next thing. It’s what I did with my first novel, On the Holloway Road. I wrote the first draft in a single caffeine- and adrenalin-fueled month, and the final published book was not different from that first draft in any major way.

The second book is different, though. It took me a lot longer to write, and is taking even longer to rewrite. I think part of it is that I wrote On the Holloway Road with no realistic expectation of finding a publisher for it, so felt more free.  This time I am expecting my book to be published, so I am being more of a perfectionist. Part of it is also that it’s a more complex book. A big part of it is that I now have an agent, and he is coming up with lots of really good suggestions for improving the book, all of which involve more rewriting.

At first I hated all the rewriting – in my head I was already onto Book 3. But as I get deeper into it, I am starting to see what is possible. I am really thinking deeply about every single paragraph, weighing up whether it is necessary, whether it could be cut, examining the pacing and the plot development. I am discovering for the first time the pleasure of watching a book get better with each draft, rather than coming out in finished form. I still wouldn’t say I like editing nearly as much as I love the thrill of the initial creation, the words spilling onto the page and not knowing where on earth they came from. But I am getting used to it, and appreciating its value. And I feel as if I am learning a lot from doing this – hopefully enough to get Book 3 perfect on the first draft!

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5 thoughts on “Editing

  1. Hi Andrew,

    The more I read about your progress the more excited I am to read it. I agree with you about wanting it right the first time. At the same time I get blocked more when I aim for perfection. I have been taking a revising and editing class and I have to say I really like editing. I find I’m freer in my writing when I know it will be revised. I know that seems strange but I like exploring the possibilities for creating “layers of meaning” Evolution is inevitable embrace it. Good luck!!

    -Charles

  2. Would you call that more editing or revising? Editing to me is sending it off to my editor, but that’s just me. I am definitely the type that TRIES to get it right the first time around, but I always end up revising quite a bit. It usually depends on the book. I can’t wait for you next book! Seriously, I’m really anxious to read it. 🙂

  3. Hi Charles
    Good to hear from you again! I know what you mean, it’s good to feel free when you’re writing and not put too much pressure on yourself to get it right first time. Doesn’t seem strange at all. I tend to write that way, thinking ‘Oh it’s OK, I can always change it later’, but in reality I often don’t end up changing it. This is the first time I’ve really gone deep into the editing process, and as I said I’m learning a lot!

    Hi Lady Glamis! That editing/revising question might be a UK/US English thing, because I’d definitely call what I’ve been doing editing. I’m glad you’re looking forward to the next one. So am I 🙂

  4. On editing and rewriting: Who was it that said: ‘writing is like driving in the dark, the headlights show only a little of the road ahead . . .’ I write like this. I have an idea, but I’m exploring it as I go along. I know enough of my ideas to have direction, but rely heavily on the knowledge I will be rewriting (yes, I call it editing), at a later date to remove what doesn’t fit or to strengthen the surprises that do. In a small course I teach from time to time I conduct a class called, ‘Writing is rewriting.’ This subject makes for a large conversation.

    Sarah

  5. Hi Sarah
    I don’t know who said that, but I wish it was me! It’s a beautiful way to describe the process of writing. I am not a great planner – like you, I have an idea of where things are going, but I only see a little of the road ahead. In fact, some days it feels as if I don’t even have the headlights switched on… So I probably should rewrite a lot, and I think this process I’m going through now is good for me. I used to rely a lot on instinct, but I think it’s probably good to introduce more method. Your course sounds interesting – where do you teach?

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