I’ve written a lot about editing lately, I know, and I’ve mostly been saying the same things over and over. “Man, editing is hard! I don’t know what to do! I need feedback first!”

Well, I’m over it.

For the most part. I mean, feedback from outside parties is still probably the most useful editing tool I have. But not all feedback is created equal. “You tend to use passive voice a lot” is way more useful than “I like it.” (Although the latter is nice too.) So I had been getting feedback, mostly from my boyfriend and a little from my roommate, but (love you guys) it wasn’t the kind I really needed. It was brief and wary and superficial.

I totally understand the apprehension felt by frienditors (get it? friend editors?), because I know how writers like myself get with their babies. I’m quick to defend the smallest pieces of my story and my hackles rise at any rearrangement of phrasing that was obviously meant to sound archaic, obviously, it’s a high fantasy for Pete’s sake. So I get the fear of giving offense or getting smacked down. I try to be reasonable and actually consider edits after tamping down my initial reaction, but I may still get snappy on first reading a critique. It happens.

So anyway, I was getting pretty gentle edits. Then I got the first 65 pages back from my dear friend GNA, whom you may remember as the one who first told me to cut half of the draft. Hack and slash, friends, hack and slash. My chapters were slimmed down and rearranged, and one even got cut completely.

It was the best thing ever.

See, I finally realized that NaNoWriMo is great for churning stuff out but not so great for a streamlined text. Now is the time for cutting the fluff sentences and finding less wordy phrasing. Now is the time for “less is more,” for “show don’t tell.” Now, it’s not about the words, or the chapters, or the total length of the piece. Quantity has nothing to do with it. Now is the time for quality.

I knew this already, of course. Deep down somewhere. But I still didn’t even know what I should have been looking for in editing my novel. I knew all the words so well that I just skipped over the passive voice and the unnecessary information and the unvaried dialogue structure. I didn’t expect GNA to slash and rewrite as much as she did, and reading through her edits was an eye-opening experience–exactly the one I needed. So now I can plow ahead and hopefully catch a lot of stuff I was missing before.

Recommended reading:

LitReactor: The First Draft

LitReactor: Getting Over It, Getting It Out: On Embracing a Bad First Draft

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6 thoughts on “The Editing Chronicles: The First A-ha Edits

  1. Ha! You didnt expect her to hack as much as she did! If you can still make out the words beneath the red ink when she’s done, you are doing well. ❤ to GNA!

  2. It’s funny how you can stare at something in utter despair, then get one simple instruction from someone you trust and see it in a whole new light. I’m glad you’re getting to the “Aha!” stage. 🙂

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