…which is a bit of a pointless image, considering it’s on my laptop (although my laptop could do with a good dusting as well, I suppose). But anyway, it’s been a while since I wrote about my writing, and I finally have something worth updating.
As some of you know, I’ve now written four novels in their first draft form, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but in all four cases I’ve sort of let them lie there. Two of them are total rubbish and I’ll never look at them again (last year’s included, sadly), but the ones I wrote in 2010 and 2011 actually had some potential. The 2010 one needs a lot of research, astounding amounts of research actually, as it is historical fiction, so while I’m slowly gathering up more information for that I’ve begun to edit the psychological thriller I wrote in 2011.
I always liked that particular story. I didn’t plan it at all, and the idea of starting a story about amnesia simply came from reading a book about it. It only turned into something different altogether as I wrote it, and for much of the time I didn’t know where I was headed, though I remember feeling like this story was something special, something a lot better than anything I had written before. But once I finished it, I put it down and put it out of my mind for over a year.
Then recently my girlfriend asked to read it. I was worried, as one always is, that she’d think it was total rubbish. So I skimmed through it myself quickly, to decide what I thought of it after all this time, and I was pleasantly surprised that although it wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, for a novel written at such a fast pace (75000 words in 29 days), it wasn’t that awful either.
The thing is, I’ve never edited anything bigger than a short story before. So this whole process is new to me, and at first I wondered how to go about it. But what I am doing now is working my way through each chapter, writing down the main events or developments in dot points, then adding main ideas I think need revising for each chapter. With 40 chapters it’s going to take a while to do this, but then it’ll be easier to trace my story and go back and change things and map out the new outcomes of those changes. For example, I feel that the whole first half is fairly close to how I want it still, and the changes are very minor. But with the second half, while I liked the feel of it, it was too epic, blown out of proportion when it should have been restrained and kept to a lot less characters – a more personal story, in other words. So I’ll need to make some major changes, probably get rid of some characters and introduce new ones, with new motives, to make it all fit back together again.
And once I’ve done all of this, of course, I’ll write draft number two, which I already intend on being significantly longer than the first draft in order to build up the atmosphere better.
It’s quite exciting to be going through this process at long last, and to imagine the new version of the story in my head as I sit here tweaking bits and pieces. But deep down I feel like the first draft was my planning, and the second will be the real story, the one that I’ll then fine-tune over and over until it’s just how I want it to be. And at that point I’ll probably find out just how much I’m my own worst critic, but I’ll deal with that later.
So I guess a question I am asking of other writers is this: How do you edit? What processes do you go through to edit, and how big are the changes you let yourself make?