The joy (and pain) of editing a novel

When I finished the first draft of my upcoming third novel, The Wanderer and the New West, it was only the beginning of an equally important writing process — editing.

Editing is more than fixing typos. Over the past few months, I have gone into detective mode — reading and re-reading my story and taking notes about what I need to add, what I need to cut, and what I need to reorder. Writing a novel takes a lot of time, and a lot of things — including characters and writing style — can (and should) evolve as you write. Sometimes as I write, I know that a scene doesn’t quite work, but don’t have an immediate solution. Rather than bash my head against the wall, I just move on to the next scene, because in my experience the perfect solution often comes along later when I’m solving something else.

Sometimes, editing feels like this. But it’s worth it! Credit: @GUARNIERI / ELLO

Cutting scenes can be hard. One of my problems is that I’ll write a joke or a bit dialogue that I believe is terribly clever, but in fact does nothing for the story. Usually my wife and editing ally Mallika calls me out on (and ruthlessly chides me for) such passages. It’s hard to hit the delete button, but in the end it’s better for the overall story. This is why I always am wary of new editions of novels or movies that restore previously cut material. In most cases, scenes or chapters are cut for a reason.

While I have cut some unnecessary segments in The Wanderer since the first draft, I’ve also added a few chapters in the middle to fill what I saw as a void in the plot. Without giving much away, there’s a part about two-thirds of the way through when the heroes decide to go stop the bad guy. In my original draft, however, there didn’t seem to be quite enough pushing them to make that decision beyond my fervent wishes as the author. As I went to work coming up with a new episode, I inadvertently addressed a few other weaknesses along the way (remember what I said before about waiting for the perfect solution?). I didn’t just fill a plot hole; I created one of my favorite sequences in the novel!

Editing is hard. It takes a lot of time. But it’s also a lot of fun. And when you read the end product, I think you’ll agree it’s worth it.

I am happy to say I’m getting close to the finish line for my edits, but of course, that will only mark the start of the next challenge: getting the story through someone who does this for a living — a professional editor! How’s that going to go? Stay tuned!

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3 Replies to “The joy (and pain) of editing a novel”

  1. Hey Adam. I agree the editing part of the writing process is indeed the harder part than the creative part, but it does bear much fruit and is essential to getting the story right. I still have quite a few edits I need to get to. oO

  2. Definitely agree with you there. My manuscript is now finished edits and it’s way better for it! Good luck with your editing.

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