Editing: The Never-Ending Story

I have always claimed that editing is the hardest part of the writing process. I think that will always be the case, though I’m sure as I move along in my career, other things will pop up and prove to me that editing isn’t the worse thing. But for the moment, it is what I avoid at all costs, particularly with my first manuscript, which has been edited numerous times.

And I’m almost done editing it again.

I’m doing a book swap with a friend that I am really excited about, as her feedback is going to be invaluable. Plus, it is the first time that I get to read her work, so double the excitement (also double the nerves, as it is the first time she is going to read my work fully and it is so difficult not to get nervous when someone you respect and admire reads a part of your soul). Yet it’s been a while since I’d work on Darryn’s story, so I knew I needed to do a round of edits before I sent it to her. Plus, I was getting awesome feedback from betas about changes I could make, so that also supported the need to edit, even though the last time I went through this with this book, I exclaimed, “This is it. This is the best I can make this story.”

Did I mention I’m editing it again?

Edits are due by August 5th. June slowly faded away and instead of editing like I planned to, I started writing a new story. All my excitement was poured into it and I spent the next two/three weeks making rough outlines and watching as the bare threads of that story came to life. Editing was the last thing on my mind, even though I had a deadline. July 4th weekend comes and goes. Still no editing. I email my friend and get a confirmed date, knowing that it must get to her by August 5th, to fit into her schedule. Another week passes and still, no editing is getting accomplished. And August continues to loom closer and closer.

Eventually, a few days past(this is the end of last week) where I don’t write anything new in my current work-in-progress. Though I knew what happened next, I seemed to be a bit stuck. The excitement of starting a new story faded slightly as the feeling that writing is work crept up on me, so I’m started trying to avoid writing until it feels less like work and more like my life’s passion and enjoyment. Somehow, during this weird process, I find myself opening up the first book in Darryn’s trilogy on Word and finally, with less than two weeks left in July, start editing the beast. Again.

And for the first time in a long while, editing doesn’t feel like work. It feels like the re-immersion into a familiar place, a familiar story, a familiar love. I incorporated a new starting place, chopping out a whopping seven chapters and reworking the beginning so all the important information that was removed is still there, but now, there is much more action and a lot less setting things up. And, I cut out a ridiculous 30K in the process, putting my book at the top edge of the desirable word count range, instead of teetering over it by 25K.

YES.

As I slowly work through the story, cutting bits here and there, making some parts tighter and generally falling in love with the story again, it’s hard not to be awed by the entire editing process as a whole; and hard not to be scared by it. When I wrote Darryn’s first draft, back in 2011-2012, I thought it was amazing. I was so overwhelmed with the fact that I had written an entire book that I didn’t really look at the quality of what I done, but instead was mesmerised by the fact that I had done it. Looking at it now, a dozen edited drafts later, I am so thankful only two other souls read that first draft, because it was absolutely horrid. But also, absolutely necessary to get the draft where it is now; a place that, regardless of how people respond to it if it is ever read widely, that I am proud of. And a place that can still be improved.

That’s the crazy–and also scary–thing about editing. It’s a never-ending process. Honestly, you could constantly edit, constantly change things according to your mood and your growth and your tastes and changing influences over time, and you’d never be done. Every published book now could have something in it changed. It’s just a matter of reaching to a point where you are proud of what you have accomplished and you are okay calling what you are showing off as your finished product–even if it could still be edited numerous more times.

The last draft I wrote, I was so proud of. When I read over it, I thought, “Man, this book is really taking shape. Some of this stuff is gold.” Now, this time around, a lot of the stuff I thought was gold? Yeah, I changed it. I cut it. Though it was still gold compared to what I had first written, I had come up with ways to make it even better. And I think–I hope–that I am really close to the stage where all the editing has paid off and this first book is ready to go onto the next stage of its life, in the hands of agents and editors and publishing houses; that I reach the point of comfort in being okay calling a draft my finished product. I know there is probably another round of edits to go through; perhaps multiple. The second and third books definitely need more editing, as they haven’t been edited nearly as much as the first book. Yet they also didn’t have some of the problems the first book had after the first draft was written, as not only the story had improved, but so had the person telling it.

Currently, I have forty pages left to edit and I’m no longer worried about meeting my deadline. Now, squeezing in a quick edit of books two and three whilst the story and the changes are fresh in my head before that deadline…now that’s going to be a bit more of a push.

But I’m excited.

I’m excited that when writing something new becomes difficult, I can turn to editing something completed (but never truly finished) to continue to keep my creative muscles working. I’m excited to see myself progressing and improving as a writer. I’m excited to have the chance to continue working on stories that are close to my heart; to have the chance to fix them ten, twenty, thirty times, to ensure they get told one day, instead of only having one shot and breaking under such pressure. I’m excited for the work, even if I drag my feet, sometimes. And I’m most excited to share this story with you, one day. Hopefully soon. But until then, I’ll continue to work my ass off to give you the best that I can give at that current moment, so I continue to learn and tell greater stories as time goes on.

Cheers.

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About Nicole Evans

Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. She has five completed manuscripts: a trilogy about destined heroes that fail anyway, a science fiction standalone that pits the natural desire to love against the natural instinct to kill during the extinction of the human race and a new series about a writer who can't get published and gets the chance to live a life that all writers dream. She also has two scripts done. Currently, she is about to start writing the second of a nine book series while planning two more. (If you can tell, she really likes this whole writing thing.) Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works part-time as a supervisor in a library at the University of Kansas. View all posts by Nicole Evans

12 responses to “Editing: The Never-Ending Story

  • philcharlesr

    Excellent stuff. I hope the momentum keeps taking you forward 🙂

  • azpascoe

    That’s so exciting! Great job at cracking through it: your work ethic is just insane 😀 I can totally understand what you mean about constantly refining your work though. Earlier this year I got persuaded to enter an Australian novel competition where you submit the first three chapters of your novel (up to 20 000 words). I probably had close to 40 000 words or so written at the time… In a notebook. Sitting down and retyping it all allowed me to read it again and again and tweak things that I didn’t like. Still, I appreciate all the moments that I’ve read back over something and thought ‘hell yeah, this is good’, even if later I’m like ‘… Oh god, what was I thinking?’

    Congrats on reaching your editing goal! Please let me know how it all goes with getting your manuscript read. I assume it’s Sione reading it? 🙂

    • inkstaind13

      Hello darling. 🙂 Gosh, thank you! Honestly, I’ve actually felt lazy and that I should be more on top of things, so it is so kind to hear you compliment my work ethic! 😛 And I love that you not only had so much accomplished in a notebook, but that you were able to edit and transcribe at the same time. I bet that was such an awesome process. I tell myself that all the “what was I thinking” moments, that it will make great panel stories later. 😛 I will totally let you know how the manuscript reading goes. I’m pretty much an open book, as this blog reflects, so you’ll hear about it. 😉 It is the lovely Sione. I am so lucky to receive her feedback, but am so nervous she is going to find something major that is wrong with it. *facepalm*

      • azpascoe

        It always feel that way to the person doing the work though! If you ever feel lazy, just remind yourself that if you’re still doing anything, you’re still winning. Plus, sometimes you need downtime in order to rediscover your creative spark! 🙂 I’m really looking forward to hearing about it! I’m sure Sione will have some awesome advice, just like I’m sure there’ll be nothing major wrong with it! Keep the faith 😀

      • inkstaind13

        With an amazing cheerleader like you, how could I *lose* the faith?! ❤ Thank you!!!

  • Joyce C

    Ha! I’ve had experience with a never-ending story myself. Good thing I had fun writing it, but by 80K words and still no ending in sight, I was beginning to panic. But hey, at least you’ve got all those words down. Better something to edit than nothing written at all, right? Hack your way through! You’ll get your perfect bonsai soon 🙂

    • inkstaind13

      You are such a gem as a cheerleader, my dear! ❤ I totally understand that, freaking out about WC as it climbs and the ending feels no closer than it did 20K ago. I hope writing is going fantastically for you, too! ❤

  • hsdeurloo

    Great post! Editing is the best/worst all at once and cutting 30k words is like a boob job on a book that’ll get you noticed 🙂 good luck!

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