I have been quite bad this week with my editing. On some days there have been geniune reasons for not editing, but on others it has simply been me ‘not feeling like it’. I get like that with writing sometimes. I get like that with a lot of things, sometimes.
But today I sat down and edited three chapters and yesterday I did the same, and just like all those other things I don’t feel like doing, it’s much better once I’m doing it.
The moral of this story – just get on with it. Even if you tell yourself you’re going to just do a few pages, once you get started, it’s so much easier to keep going.
Of course, I’m going to go back and tighten it some more, but I find it best with my own work to do a few reads because I know I’ll spot (and look for) different things each time. This time I did the main thing I’d been putting off – adding some explanation and changing certain passages.
As I’d written on, I’d decided to change a couple of things – Quin’s obsession with jewellery became a more specific obssession with rings (to be explained in a later flashback) and Derry’s hair colour (obviously, that’s a much smaller change). So I’ve just gone back to the chapters where the jewellery comes up and sorted that out. I’m a lot happier with it and it’s actually added some fun to the scene. The change came from discussions with the Dandy-man – initially it wasn’t clear that Quin’s thievery comes from a Robin Hood type desire to ‘rob from the rich to give to the poor’. We chatted about how he read her character and I could see what he meant, and we worked out how a subtle change could make it work.
I’d definitely recommend having a sympathetic reader or two when you’re in the writing process and/or initial edits. Now, by a ‘sympathetic reader’, I don’t mean one who will just tell you that you’re great. I’m talking about someone who knows what they’re talking about, whose judgement you trust and who knows how to give constructive criticism. I’m really lucky as I have quite a few of these to draw upon – the aforementioned Dandy and some friends from my MA.
Of course, everyone’s work needs hard pruning, but it has to come at the right time – ie, once you’ve written it. While you’re still in that precarious place of writing the first draft, it’s too easy for your house of cards to get knocked down by a careless critique. The danger being that you might give up on a work-in-progress that has a lot of potential because, based on criticism of a first draft, you think it’s crap. Different people have differing levels of sensitivity, only you can say what yours is – be honest with yourself and choose your readers accordingly.
Next time – discussion of the other addition I made in today’s editing session, AKA Brevity in Fantasy (not a contradiction in terms!).