The Dreaded Edit

I promised to edit my novels into the story they deserve to be, and I intend to honour that promise. Unfortunately, stage 1 (read through them after a healthy break) unearthed the sad fact that they’re not finished.I don’t just mean ‘this isn’t where the story ends’, I mean they don’t even start at the beginning. Both need serious hacking at, shifting around, character-dectomies and all the other work of a serious revision, but they also need writing.

This is frustrating. That statement has had some swearing removed, as you might imagine. What I’ve got of them I love. They’re charming and funny and sweet, but driven forwards by conflicts and some rock solid worldbuilding. They’re great. But because they start and finish in the wrong places, I’m going to have to start again completely. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not.

I can save the characters and concepts, and some of the scenes. The conflicts still need to be there, and the settings are fine. But the words I used to describe them, that’s the bit I have to do over again. And that’s sort of fine, because that’s the east bit. That’s just writing, which I do all the time anyway, and I get to spend time with two couples I grew to love over two different months. Fine, one couple in two different settings; I’m a creature of habit.

So yes, the characterisation needs work as well.

This is the disadvantage of pantsing, and the advantage of writing to discard. My NaNo novels are never meant to last. They’re there to be a repository for my most ridiculous ideas, where they are free to grow and mutate and spew forth a kernel of actual story. Looking back, I like what I wrote and I don’t want to discard it, but I have to. It’s got to go.I’ve never really been able to edit before. If I knew what was wrong with it, I wouldn’t have done that in the first place. Perhaps I’ve put my finger on it this time and I’ve been writing the wrong story all along. I’d like to say that this November I’ll get it right first time, but I won’t. That’s not what November is for.

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6 thoughts on “The Dreaded Edit

  1. Pingback: Outlining vs “Pantsing” | Chris Musgrave - Writer in Training

  2. At the very least, you’ve discovered what needs fixing. What to do differently next time. That’s worth a lot, I think, and it makes what you’ve already written meaningful. It’s a stepping stone. As long as you don’t shrink away from the task, you’re doing great.

  3. It’s gratifying to know I’m not alone in this process. I know big sections of what I written are probably going to have to go–and it’ll hurt, but it will make the story better. NaNoWriMo served its purpose–it got us writing.

  4. NaNoWriMo novels are less of a boiling point and more of a story Hadron Collider. They’re experimental areas where we fire characters, plots, scenes and locations at each other to see what sticks. Sometimes you end up with the Higgs-Boson that is a perfectly formed novel, usually you end up with a train-wreck but you can guarantee that somewhere in the carnage is an idea you never saw coming.

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