I finished the first draft of my novel in August last year. I was B.U.Z.Z.I.N.G I’d finally done what I said I’d do – write a book… Ok, I finished a draft.
I listened to the advice you gave on what I should do next, which was… Nothing – Lock the manuscript in a dark cupboard and throw away the key for months. I did. Sort of. I may have peaked at the first few chapters.
That was a mistake.
It was of course, total shit. More than shit, I wouldn’t have wiped my butt cheeks with it. Seriously. I may have cried, ok, I didn’t cry. But I did shed some tears on the inside. All those months of sweat and tapping, for what? A massive steaming pile of turd. A twitch formed on my eyelid as a heady mix of panic and fear set in. How was I ever going to rectify this mess? I hated editing. I can’t do detail and didn’t know a comma from a bloody apostrophe. So how I was ever going to be a writer? I was blocked. Big Time.
Then, I had a realisation.
Editing, isn’t just editing.
I read an interesting (and well-timed) article this week from a woman called Joan Dempsey, in it she described two types of writers.
The – vomit on the page must get the story out on paper at all costs even if it’s a pile of shit – writers
The – I can’t possibly write past a missing comma in this sentence, everything needs to be perfect in my first draft – writers.
I am most definitely the former. I spew out word vomit faster than the speed of light, without a care in the world for grammar, spellings or beauty. It’s ugly, but its out of my head.
The point is, whichever camp you fall into, you will approach editing in a different way. The latter – the edit as you go types – will have less of a task when it comes to their first revision. They may find things that still don’t work, chapters that need to move, but what they have is probably more fluent with less mistakes than the first group of writers who might have a draft completed quickly but its choc full of problems.
So what do you do?
Well, you don’t edit that’s for sure.
I know, I know, it sounds the same. Apparently it’s not. The first step of editing isn’t actually editing at all. It’s revising. Especially if you fall into the first camp.
What’s the difference? Quite a lot so I’ve learnt.
Revising is sorting out the big picture, it’s:
- Making sure your story flows
- The pace and structure are right
- The characters are perfected with the right depth
- You have a hook
- Ensuring all the subplots are story lines are rounded off at the end
Editing is sorting out the detail, it’s:
- Checking grammar
- Punctuation and typos
- Checking for consistencies and continuity
- Its correcting formatting errors
I’m a visual person, so I made a visual – Clearly there are things that overlap, they are in essence part and parcel of one process.
If you’re intending on working with a professional editor, then there will be dozens of types of edits you could have, from developmental edits, to line edits, and everything in between. If you are paying for it, choose carefully. But I am only at the beginning of this process, and despite what I thought, I’m not even at the editing stage yet! I’m revising.
Changing the way I saw editing, completely removed the block I had.
It meant I was no longer terrified to pick up my manuscript. I could attack the second draft with the same force I attacked the first one; hacking it to pieces and this time crafting something that looked more like a story instead of a turd.
Are you afraid of editing? Which kind of writer are you? The vomit crap on the page kind, or the snails pace perfectionist? Let me know in the comments below.
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