I know it’s been awhile since I posted anything about my manuscript, The Darkest Hour. That’s because I’ve been editing LIKE CRAZY.To give you an idea of what I mean, it is now about half as long as the version you may have read excerpts from. In the process of editing I have mercilessly destroyed beloved characters and subplots alike. I had to mourn each one. The result is a manuscript quite different than it used to be, but I think a lot better too.
Some of the editing has resulted from my own realizations after putting it away and then taking a fresh look. Some are from my beloved beta readers, whose insights have helped me realize where there were holes in the story. Some are even from reading other books, realizing what I do and don’t like in writing styles and changing my writing accordingly.
I have listed some of the lessons I learned along the journey, some serious, some less so…
- My story is doomed to fail because there is no bridge in the opening scene. This from a reader who designs bridges for a living and claims all good entertainment (movies, TV shows, books) have a bridge featured somewhere near the beginning. My rebuttal is, that my story does have drainage features in the first scene. (My husband designs drainage features for a living.) Who needs bridges anyway?
- When you think you have slashed as many words as is humanly possible from your manuscript, put it down. Step away. When you pick it up again, you’ll find a whole bunch of useless junk just waiting for the ax.
- “You can’t get rid of _____!” Insert beloved side character here. I have an extreme weakness for adding WAY too many characters into my writing. This means during the editing process I must wipe a significant number of them out of existence. It’s a gruesome process. Characters that I love (or that my guinea pig readers love) are not immune. RIP Ben, Bhavana, Hardgrove, Zajac, Ruben, and more. I will never forget you.
- Sometimes my readers understood elements of my story better than I did. I tried to change things accordingly.
- Many things I thought were absolutely essential to the story were not. Getting rid of them was a process. Most died slowly. Some things I thought were not essential to the story were. As much as I tried to destroy them, they just wouldn’t go away.
- Sometimes you have to interpret comments from readers who don’t want to say anything negative, to figure out what exactly didn’t work. People don’t like to be critical.
- You can always edit more. It’s like a logarithmic equation where your manuscript gets better in smaller and smaller amounts, slowly approaching perfect, but never actually reaching it.
- Although editing is hard, there is something soothing and satisfying about slashing your own writing to pieces, picking the pieces up and putting them back together.
- In addition to asking for criticism, you need to listen to it. If something isn’t working for your reader, then it probably needs fixing. You may not have to fix it like they suggested, but you should not ignore it.
- I love my own writing. It is why I decided to write in the first place. But my writing after editing is so much cleaner. In some ways, it startles me to know that I created it.