Someone once said that there are no great writers, only great rewriters. I am – to misquote Bob Dylan – “learning it these days.”
I wrote in the summer about the chastening (but valuable) experience of the first edits of my forthcoming novel, Fifty-One.
This first round of editing addressed the content of the story, and helped me iron out plot problems and flaws in the storytelling.
The next stage was line-editing.
This is not so much concerned with story arc, but instead focuses more closely on the quality of the writing – sentence structure, punctuation, consistency of spelling and word usage.
Naturally enough, not everyone is equally skilled at all different types of editing. Speaking personally, I can usually spot a typo at twenty paces, but I had to work really hard to jazz up my dialogue and the pace of my story in places.
So it was probably wise of my estimable publisher, Filles Vertes Publishing, at this new editing stage to cunningly deploy a different editor. Just as I thought I’d done all the work, the scarily thorough CL Rose hit me with, in her words:
“4,725 revisions – 2,273 insertions; 2,425 deletions (a total word count of 1,604 words taken off); 22 formatting corrections, and 5 in doc comments.”
My mission was to comb the manuscript again and decide in each and every case whether to accept or reject the amendment, or in some cases to rewrite the section to get round the issue in a different way.
Comma in? Apostrophe out? Should the character say ‘I would’ or ‘I’d’?
Living the Author Dream. Imagine my joy.
(To ease the pain slightly, CL didn’t just blitz me with commas and spelling changes. She also told me that the ending of the story – which I rewrote in Editing Stage One – was now “fucking bad-ass”. Aw shucks.)
The line edits took me a few weeks to work through. This kind of close attention to every line of a story you’re very familiar with is hard work. I can’t deny it’s worth it. If writing the first draft is telling the story to yourself, this kind of detailed polishing is making sure your story is fit to be told to others. But it’s not as much fun as making stuff up for the first time.
By the end of the process, I was simultaneously very pleased with the manuscript…and sick of the sight of it!
It took me until the third stage of editing to fall back in love with it.