Will the Edits Ever End…?

I am worried that I will never reach the end of my edits for my current work in progress. This is not insecurity talking…this is an actual fear. I’m currently on Chapter 5 of the rewrites, having decided previously, after twelve chapters, that I needed to change the whole chronology of the novel. However, after the piece of advice below I’m considering going right back to the start again: 

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Of course, I couldn’t help myself. I went back and opened my WIP to the beginning of Chapter 2 and realised that, yes, this would make for a much more intriguing opening to the novel. Chapter 1 could easily be reintegrated into a flashback explaining how the new patient arrives at the Unit and meets my protagonist doctor.

And now I want to go back and fix it to be like that. 
I know I shouldn’t. Yet it feels wrong to continue on knowing that something earlier is not how I want it.

This is my second attempt at editing NaNo #1 and so far I haven’t made it past the half way mark. The second half of my entire novel still languishes in first draft format while the first third is getting an extensive re-write plus edit after edit after edit. It seems I want to put everything I am learning into practice and am doing so using my first few chapters as the testing ground. 

But is this the right way to do it?

There is a ton of advice about writing through the desire to edit for your first draft. You ignore what is wrong and plough on regardless. Your novel wouldn’t get finished if you didn’t at least close your mind off to the possibility that some of what you have written is utter drivel.

However, when it comes to the editing of said first draft: then what? Am I allowed to revise the same chapter over and over again; to start the editing process afresh if I’ve decided on a better way to tackle it; to begin a third time if I’ve had to add another chapter in order to make sure it’s as fine as the ones already written?

Do I now have to adapt the advice on writing a first draft into editing for a second draft? Should I carry on with my rewrites and edits regardless, even though I know I will have to go back and change Chapters 1 and 2 all over again?

I’ve never edited a novel before. This is blatantly obvious. I feel adrift. I want to fix all the problems that I see – and so far I’ve identified a lot of them. But there has to be a more cohesive means to do it than my current technique. I thought I was doing okay, until that interesting bit of advice above opened my eyes up to yet another improvement. 

If editing is anything like writing that first draft though, the only thing I know is that I have to carry on.
No looking back. 

After all, who’s to say I won’t find something in Chapter twenty-two that will change my whole outlook on Chapter 1?

~~~

I would be most appreciative of any advice on such issues – or even just a companionable commiseration shared on such a problematic task. So, please (I beg you) leave a comment if you have any idea (or experience) of what I’m talking about here.

~~~

Editing appears to be a process as individual and idiosyncratic as all of the stories told in the millions of novels written and waiting to be written. 

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16 responses to “Will the Edits Ever End…?

  1. Pingback: Editing and Rewriting | K. R. Green

  2. Pingback: Have you reviewed your writing goals? | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  3. Pingback: To continue to try means never to fail | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  4. In terms of first drafts of novels I’ve attempted beginning, I have… eight.
    How many have I read all the way through or done anything beyond editing the first few pages? None.

    If there is one thing I consistently wonder about, it’s how I should really have started. I’ll go back to scene one to check I DID include a piece of backstory for.. wherever I’m at – say chapter five or so.
    And then as I skim-read, I’ll edit it.
    And then I think of a WHOLE NEW IDEA and it flows easily and reads really well in scene one… but then I realise I have to include it in every scene following >_> And then I procrastinate, then change it like this, and then a week later, I’ll be in chapter six or seven, and check the first chapter for X hint I left… and the process begins again.

    I’m definitely a “writer” over an “editor” when it comes to my own work. And I’ve tried about ten different ways of combating this. My current attempt is to read the scene, writing a) what questions would a reader have now?” and b) “what do I know so far?”

    So for my first scene I have “oh, who’s coming? why are they after this girl? what’s with the bird? why does she carry weapons through the village?”
    and “she’s got brown hair. magical. people think she’s dead. the boy is a blacksmith’s son”

    And then I can look at any *plot* aspects before I waste my time with spelling and grammar and phrasing.

    I’m not sure it’s helpful yet, as I only began yesterday – but it worked with scene one =)

  5. I’ve never really edited before either. I’m in the process of the second attempt at editing my novel from 2011. The first time I tried to go through it on the computer and got around half way before giving up. It took several months to get to this point.

    Then recently, I decided to try again. I took a whole new approach. I printed off the whole thing, and started again from the start, pen in hand (orange pen, if you’re interested). And I’m going through it, circling spelling errors/typos, scribbling out sentences/paragraphs, etc. I have a notebook next to me where I’m making a list of major changes/plotholes, along with their page number. I put a comment on the printed page as well. In about 3 weeks, I’ve gotten 2/3 of the way through the first draft. I am loving it.

    I believe the change of format helped. Being able to feel the pages made it all seem real. Gave me an idea of what it would be like in book form. (Even though this is A4 printed, you get the point).

    The plan is to then transfer the edits to my novel on my computer. I have a netbook but will hook it up to the 15″ spare PC screen so it’s all nice and big, then work my way through everything a second time, putting in the changes I made on the printed copy, and writing up the major changes/filling in plotholes. I imagine this will take much longer.

    When that’s done, I’ll take a break then, re-print it and go through it again. I find that taking the NaNo approach to editing it, is great. And by that I mean – don’t look back. Go through it once, edit bits/make the changes. Then go through it again from the start and make more changes. Personally, I think I’m going to find it easier doing it this way. That way I can move huge chunks around, and not have to worry if they work out until the next read through, which means I can focus on getting through the current level of editing.

    I’ve not managed to put all this into practice but it sounds good in my head. Good luck with the edit, Cat! You can definitely do this. Even the biggest author’s out there went through this stage at some point!

    • Thanks doll! Not just for sharing your editing technique, but also for the encouragement and support!

      I have to admit, your approach is similar to the one I took originally. I started printing out my chapters and editing chronologically, but then I realised that I needed to change the chronology, remove characters and include others right from the beginning. This is when I discovered Scrivener: so I started over with the rewrites I knew were necessary.

      I know that once I’ve tackled the rewrites and got the chronology sorted I’m planning to print out the entire thing and go at it in just the way you describe. To me, it sounds like a good approach.

      I guess we all have to find the method that works best for us, and when it’s only our first novel everything seems more challenging because we don’t know what it’s ‘meant’ to feel like! Everyone who’s done it before makes it seem so easy (in the fact that they’ve done it…!).

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your editing approach. I wish you all the best with your novel and hope you enjoy the next step of it! 🙂

      And, if I can do it – then so can you!
      Take Care,
      Cat x

  6. Hi Cat, I tried to leave a comment yesterday but it didn’t work. Hope this one does; I absolutely sympathize. I’m revising and re-editing a supposedly finished novel that has been read by a few people and alhough they haven’t asked me to do this; it is me that needs to improve so many bits that i didn’t see needed improvement in the last (137th, well almost) time going through it. And of course I worry about the same things as you .. It’s my first novel but I have published lots of academic books before this. But what is important is that you are happy with the final product. ……Please don’t try to do everything that the “experts” suggest. It’s your novel! …..On the other hand, it doesn’t matter if it takes time. I started this novel in 2006.and interrupted it with a few new editions of other books I’d written previously. Mine is 119K words and each new read-thru and edit takes a lot of time. Just take your time and try to make sure that the revisions feel right and don’t create new “gliches” or inconsistencies etc. You WILL get there!

    • Hi Gary,
      I’m so pleased that your comment worked, as these are great words of encouragement. Making sure I’m happy with the final product, and believing in my work is definitely very important.
      I guess I’m quite impatient – I just want it to be done already, but what I really need to do is slow down and enjoy the process and have confidence in my ability to edit this novel into a final product I can be proud of. And that takes time.
      Good luck with your own editing – it’s reassuring to know there are other writers out in the world going through the difficult process of editing for the first time! But you’re right, we WILL get there – with hard graft and patience and a touch of self-belief!
      Thanks for stopping by to offer support. 🙂
      Take Care, Cat x

  7. I so wish i could give you some wonderful words of advice, but, having not edited a novel either… 😦

    Has it been to a Beta reader yet honey? Sorry,i cant remember if youve already said.

    xx

    • Sometimes it’s nice just knowing there are other out there in similar situations!
      No beta reader as yet, hoping to get through these edits and then send it to a couple in November while I work on the sequel! (It will have to go to people not taking part in NaNo, obviously
      X

    • Not sure I know where the creativity really lies anymore Linda! Hopefully if I keep on track, my second pass will make it clearer.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      Take care, Cat

  8. I feel like all I do is edit, too. I’ve seen the advice of cutting the first chapter before (particularly if it’s more like a prologue) and did it, and then decided no I couldn’t and wrote it all back in the way I had it, and now I’m thinking I really, truly can and will cut it back out and start with my second chapter, inserting all the info I had in the first chapter into places it seems relevant. I’ve also realized I need more conflict…in other words, my whole novel is drivel and it needs a rework.

    There is a lot of work in writing your first novel. It’s the first time you’ve done anything like it. You think and re-think every decision. Some people tell you to let it sit for awhile. I’ve found that the longer it sits the more I rethink my decisions. I might have to read it just to prove to myself it isn’t all crap. I think it’s the distance. I was very close to the manuscript and now it’s been sitting for a month in isolation. I don’t think I can willingly let it sit for much longer before I start to tinker with it again. I know it’s not anywhere near to being done and it’s killing me.

    • Mine sat for six months, and I totally know what you mean she you say you can’t let it sit much longer! There are so many things I want to improve though, it’s difficult to be systematic and logical about how to tackle it all!

      Wish you all the best with your own endeavour to edit. Hopefully beta readers will be able to help you determine the Chapter1/2 debate.

      Thanks for commenting,
      Take care, Cat x

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