What I’m Learning From Editing

These last few days, I have been Seriously Editing. Don’t look at me that way, I have! Okay, so I didn’t edit yesterday but I have a perfectly legit excuse! I was training to volunteer for a children’s helpline. See, legit. I will be editing after I blog this. I have my Scrivener open and everything.

But I did edit for two hours on Sunday (as mentioned in my last blog) and for about an hour on Monday. Editing is actually fun sometimes. I haven’t read this writing in over a year and sometimes get so involved with the story that I’m supposed to be looking for typos and bad sentences. (Luckily, this is only the first edit so anything I’ve missed I have a good chance of catching the second or third time round.)

But on top of the fun-ness of realising my writing doesn’t totally suck, I’m learning a lot which is very interesting…

  • I write notes in whichever notebook I have closest at the time.

This is not as useful as it sounds because then, a month later, I can’t find which notebook I wrote in and thus can’t remember what my plan was. I then spend several minutes searching each notebook I can currently find (which isn’t all of them) and yelling at my past self.

  • I start a lot of sentences with “so”:

1. So did you find any groups at all?
2. So you only found one group, so what?
3. So that’s cool.
4. So he began to tell himself he was alright.
5. So go for it.
6. So no one begrudged him a bad night.

All those examples came from a section 353 words in length. Examples 2 and 3 were in the same bit of dialogue, one sentence after the other. I suddenly realised (probably around this point, which is in Chapter 9) that I start way too many sentences with ‘so’ and it’s really not needed in the vast majority of cases. I can just delete the word and the sentence not only makes perfect sense, it doesn’t read like a babbling fool wrote it. I’ve since realised that I say ‘so’ a lot when I’m talking, which is why it’s in my writing. Gosh darn it! I’m going to need to keep an eye on that…

  • I can see the points where I was hitting the wall and just scrambling for words.

And the penalty of doing NaNoWriMo: trying to meet that word count. These moments are jumping out at me and I can see that then I was either behind for the day and desperate or writing on kamikaze mode on Write or Die and just needed to keep writing no matter what so my words didn’t get eaten! For example, these two sentences came after each other yet both say the same exact thing, but differently:

“Right now their choices seemed to end up between a rock and a hard place. It was a case of trying to pick the lesser of the two evils.”

(If anyone’s wondering, I kept the first one.) It is interesting to see these sort of points in my writing though. It’s almost like I’ve gone back in time to watch my former self write the novel. A bit Ghost of Christmas Past. But with novels…

  • On occasion I had the same idea when writing, as I do when editing – 18 months after I wrote the first part of this novel.

Let me explain. At one point, I realised I needed a certain character to do something and I groaned because it would involve a lot of re-writing up ahead (I really wish I’d copied down the scenario because now I can’t remember it) but then a paragraph later, the character was already doing it! Which means that when I was writing it, I realised part way through that this character needed to do this particular thing and went ahead and changed the story there and then without going back to edit the bit before. This was an absolutely awesome realisation! Partly because it was nice to feel that my ideas are consistent, and partly because it was a lot less re-writing to do.

  • It is far too easy to switch a character name without realising it.

I have a character called Don but at various points in the story he becomes Dan, because clearly my brain has issues with vowels. And at one point Michael became Martin which was horribly confusing because I actually have a character called Martin…

And finally…

  • There’s something satisfying about deleting a bad sentence.

I don’t know about you, but noticing a truly bad sentence that has no right to be in your novel and just hitting that delete key is immensely satisfying. I enjoy having the ability to realise that it’s a bad sentence and that as I delete it, my novel is instantly that little bit better than it was before.

And that is what I’ve learnt from editing so far! It’s like looking into my own soul and I’m coming out the other side knowing myself that little bit better.

Posted on August 15, 2012, in Editing, We All Fall Down and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Kelly Cautillo

    It’s nice to know that the fruits of your labour are coming out just fine, with all your TLC. Some interesting points you’ve highlighted though… I guess editing is very much a love-hate thing. It’s great to learn from it, just fookin’ annoying going through it.

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