Do you sometimes have days where you don’t know what to do? Well, welcome to my week. Yup, these past few days I have been procrastinating with a capital P, and here’s why: my editing sucks. There said it. The editing of my second novel is going worse than a knees up at a party political conference and it’s doing my head in. You may recall me mentioning my editing issues before, and for this, I apologise. Thing is, it is now reaching boiling point and do you know what? I know why. I do. So, I’m going to be honest with you now. The reason why my editing is going so badly is because I am utterly impatient.
When I first began writing books some years ago, editing seemed easy. Yes, it appeared like a breeze on the wind after a long trek through the desert. But now I know better. Oh yessurey. You see, editing a novel cannot be done in one go, as it turns out. And it is this I have to come to terms with. Think of editing a book as a painting. Paintings are full of colours, textures, layers, but of course, they were not all put on in one go. Oh no. And, hope you’re sitting down, because here is my analogy.
Paintings have a base layer of colour. For a book, this base layer is equivalent to edit number 1. Yes, edit number one is your base edit. ee? It is the very first edit of your work after the idea has spilled out of you on to the blank page. At this first stage, you need to edit your style. Read through each chapter, adjust your lines, your dialogue. Ask if your writing is good. How are you characters?
What you can’t do at the same time as edit one is figure out pacing. Pacing goes to edit number two, or, if you’re a painter, your next layer of colour. This is the one that gives the artwork dimension. The pacing for the novel is how the chapters flow together. Ask yourself is it fast enough? Slow enough? Cut and mold your chapters. Include here too how the characters fit together. Cull also anything you don’t need.
When your washed out doing that then your ready for the final edit – edit number three. This is your final layer of colour, if you will, the layer that makes the eyes visible on the face (stay with me). At this stage of the novel edit you need to proof check like crazy. And then read the entire thing back through again. Check for the flow after all your work from the other edits. Read it as if you are a reader. Ask yourself would you buy it. You may find you need to tweak, and God forbid, you may need another mini- edit, but it will be the signature on the canvas, so to speak.
And so there you go – the reason why I am impatient. Because editing comes in layers. If I want to do it well – and I really, really do – then I have to do it like this. I have to stage my edits, polish my work so it ends up shining enough for someone to want to read it. And all that takes time.
So, I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, it’s going to take forever, but it will be worth it. Better than a knees up at a party political conference any day. Now, where’s my paintbrush.
How do you edit? Do you do anything different? Or does it take forever too?
Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the badger culling in Gloucestershire…**