Editing is War

When going into the “edit cycle” of your novel, it may be easier to view the story not as a single entity but rather a series of moving parts. A house is not just a house: it’s hinges and pipes and floorboards and water heaters and restless ghosts and sex swings and fiberglass insulation and hungry mice. You don’t edit a giant hunk of word-meat called a novel: you butcher it in pieces and parts.

- Chuck Wendig

(Total tangent to my thoughts – Have I mentioned I love the irreverent, bluntness of Chuck Wendig. He is full of practical views on the writing and publication process.  No limits or boundaries to his thoughts. If you have tender ears, or are sensitive to strong language, this is not the site for you.  )

As I’m going through my project for the billioneth and first time, I’m blinded by the trees of the forest.  I have a complicated tale, with a lot (I do mean A LOT) of moving parts.  Parts for the current situation, set up for the next installment, etc.  Looking at things from a mechanical viewpoint (i.e. how did Ella get from the desk to the stairs without moving? etc.), makes working through the whole of the project easier.

There are days when I look at the pages of words I have created and want to scream in frustration. Other days, I have the mojo and can become an editing queen.

Writing a book is a war. What you just did was experience only one of the many battles in fighting that war: muddy in the trenches, crawling through the ejected blood of your cohorts, the stink of burning ink slithering up your nose like so many grave-worms. Maybe you won this battle. Maybe you lost. But the war goes on, friend-o. The typewriter keeps chattering. The story keeps struggling to be born. The screams of forgotten characters echo (echo echo) across the battlefield.

- Chuck Wendig, Terribleminds.com

That about sums up my opinion on writing and editing.

11 comments

  • Editing is something I enjoy for smaller pieces, but for my novel its been a nightmare. I’ve changed it so many times, I’m at the point of wondering if I’ve changed too much.

    • I can completely understand. I had to put mine away for a couple of months. Now, it’s going better. But still, I get ‘wordblind’. I’m sending good editing mojo your way.

  • I feel your pain. I just finished my 125476 edit of the manuscript. You and Chuck perfectly captured the editing experience. Great post!

    I had those wordblind self doubting moments too. Try to push forward and make notes of any iffy areas for later.

  • In my case I think it’s more of a massacre. I could go back a million times and find something to change or correct.

    • Knowing when to give it to the Universe (i.e. agents etc.) is the hardest. I know I always have ‘what was I thinking’ moments, reminding myself that my clever doesn’t always translate.

  • Breaking into smaller bits is a great idea. I try to do some edits that focus on a particular item, like dialogue or PO consistency in scenes. But even then, the eyes can glaze over….

    And I know how C.B. Wentworth feels about changing things too much – I’ve got one novel out with a new beta reader, and while I think I’ve made some good improvements, I also worry that I may have changed things I should have left alone!

    • Trust me, I’m at the glaze point. BUT, I put on my best writing playlist and go at it. Eventually, it all comes together.

      • Well, speaking of glaze over…. That was supposed to read POV consistency! D’oh!

        • If we can’t share our d’oh moments with each other, who can we share them with. :)

  • This is how I feel about my own revisions too, but my problem is figuring out what to even DO. Do I need the wrench, the drill, the hammer, or the saw? Do I need to work on this character or that subplot … ? Terribly frustrating. I wanted to be productive today, and ended up yimmering around once again with tiny little things – a word choice, a deletion of some phrase – and once again not feeling I was doing any WORK …

    • We both know war is hell. We use our arsenal, call retreat to fight another day, then sneak up on the enemy and go all wordy on them. Any movement forward is productive.

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