Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Editing is hard because you've changed

Like most people, I jumped into writing with the intent of publishing thinking that the world was about to show me all the unicorn riding kittens wrapped in rainbows.

Let me start by saying that publishing did not turn out like that.

At every turn the journey has been hard--wonderful, but hard (sound like that speech from A League of Their Own? That's because it's right). I struggle with a lot of things, but the realization that my good book must be somewhere between great and spectacular to get anywhere has sent me back to the revising trenches.

And every time I go back I'm caught in a trap. I've written a quarter of a million words since I wrote the first draft of this book. That's somewhere between a sneeze and a ton. The real problem is that my written voice has shifted. It's closer to my actual voice. And this means that even though my book is good, if I could put my current voice into my old book, it might be great.

But how?

Edits should be the answer. Should. My problem is that I'm one of those terribly inefficient creatures for whom nothing short of rewriting will straighten out my writing voice.

That's right. I'm thinking about starting at the beginning and just rewriting it. AGAIN.


I rewrote the first chapter and Krakatoa! that's better. It's better in that relieving sort of way. It's like having two clarinet players*, the really good one, and the one with a lot less experience. The two are never in tune. The playing isn't bad, the timing is pretty close, but it's never quite in sync. Alone, most people would never see that the inexperienced player had some issues, but when the master plays it's clear.

I'm not saying my first chapter is like the master playing--actually maybe I am. For one brief moment it was really good. Like really good. (Why is it hard to say that about my writing?). But now it's clear that the first chapter is awesome, and chapter 2 isn't. Nor is chapter 3. Which means, I have to rewrite the whole thing. Anything less is going to look like a bad patch job where I threw in that "new" voice all over the place.

And anytime you write something, it must be edited for all the things. It's not quite starting over at least, but it's going to need time. Like lots of time. Like handing it to beta readers time, and that's hard because I thought I was done with that step. It's frustrating. But I think it's better to believe in something, especially this story.

Which leaves me at frustrated that writing takes so long, and excited for what this story really could be. In short, I'm totally ready for my 80s Movie Music Montage. Maybe we could go with a snappy pop song about working for your dreams or something.

Have you ever had that moment where the story you thought was ready for prime time came back with a seemingly subtle change that was really "here change the whole thing"?

*I chose clarinets because when played badly they sound like the noise my vacuum cleaner would make if I accidentally sucked up a set of bag pipes.


  1. I think you've got the right idea. Going back and making the improvements now will make for a much better product in the end and you won't be left feeling that you could have done better. (That is, until you go back and read it five years down the road). It's a painstaking process, but you'll be glad you did it when that polished book is ready for publishing. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks. I'm starting to wonder if I'm not really a perpetual revisionist. I sure hope not.

  2. I'm in the editing stage right now too, and it is so frustrating at times! I've gone back and rewritten stories before, and it's definitely paid off. Just hard to find your groove--and world-building is the hangup for me right now!

    Btw--I love that analogy you made about clarinets. So funny and so true! I play the clarinet and it's definitely something that only sounds good when mastered ha ha.

    1. World building isn't my problem--letting my reader in on the world building is!

      And I've played clarinet a few times when we had substitute band teachers, so yeah, I've been the dying bagpipes before.

  3. My current WIP isn't quite in my voice - it started off as something wildly different, and I think I've diluted it to somewhat different.

    My foolproof method of editing in your situation is to type the novel up again - that's what I've just done, and it didn't take as long as you'd think!

    1. I've just recently come to the conclusion that I really and truly need to retype the whole thing. There's stuff that needs to be added, and stuff that ought to be cut, so we'll see how this next run goes. (and I really really hope it doesn't take as long!)


    Okay, it's not quite a montage, but it's cheesy and 80s and uplifting, so it should still work. :P

    I'm glad to see, though, that you've made the decision to rewrite. Sometimes I think the agonizing about what to do is a ton worse than anything the writing puts you through can be. (Sometimes it is, sometimes I'm wrong.) But I hope this goes well, so at the end, you can look back and say "Damn, that was worth it."

    ...though you do now have me dreading what I'll find when I finally pick TAW back up in two and a half weeks. @_@

  5. I know exactly what you mean: "it's frustrating. But I think it's better to believe in something, especially this story." - yes - which is why I'm still plugging away at my beloved stories after years, still believing despite all the work and rewriting that it's worth it!

  6. Ugh, that's a tough one. But i think you're right. I mean, if you didn't rewrite the whole thing, would you regret it later? Probably. But still. Blergh.

  7. I can't believe how many times I went back and rewrote huge parts of my story. Everytime I learned something new about how to write, or realized my voice had gotten better, or realized the plot could be amped up, I had to go back and redo major portions. It's happening a bit less now, but it's still going to happen again.

    If you feel rewriting a chapter will make it better, then that's what you should do, even if it's every one of them.

  8. ahhh I so know how you feel... Writing does take such a long time. The editing especially. I am currently editing through my novel at the moment. It's nice to know I am not alone in the journey. Like your blog! Keep it up! :)

  9. Yes, I have had that moment, and it means I have to go over most of the story again! I'm okay with that, even though some of other writers I share work with think I'm making a mistake.
    You should be very proud of the progress you are making. It's okay to admit that you see something great in what you wrote! Hold on to that! It will take you through the work ahead.
    People tell me that all this revising is simply changing the words around because I'm afraid to move on, but I've seen that spark in my story too. Maybe not as much as you have, but it's there--what I want my book and my writing to look like.
    I think it will be worth it when you can look at your story and truly believe it is great.

  10. I've rewritten an entire manuscript before, and while it's a shite-ton of work, I found it to be worth it in the long run.

  11. I had a reader at a book signing tell me my voice was stronger in my second book, that she could enjoyed the feeling of being in on the "ground floor" and seeing my writing evolve,

    I never thought about it before, but she was right (and wise!). The difference between book one and book two was a little more cockiness, an "I can do this" sort of feeling. (It's a fleeting feeling, I grab it when I can!)


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