Editting Editing is not something I really knew how to do until AFTER I got published. I was just lucky that the publisher liked ‘Stinky Ferret & the JJs’ as I first wrote it, and saw potential in it, because all my editing process really entailed at the time was reading over it, fixing up a few grammatical errors, rearranging a few sentences and yeah, that’s about it.
It was during the editing process that I really discovered what editing involves. It’s not just a matter of re-reading and fixing up a few mistakes. Although line editing (as the publishing world calls it) is important, there’s much more too it that this. It was through the deeper look into how the story is working as a whole (commonly called structural editing) that I really learned about editing. So what is it? Structural editing is about looking at the whole picture. For example, how are relationships in the story developing? Do any of the characters need more ‘fleshing out.’ Is the story believable? Do we have empathy for the main character? What more might the reader need to know?
Though since working through ‘Stinky Ferret’ with my editor my ability to look at my own work subjectively has improved, I know I’ve got a long, long way to go yet. I’ve just completed the first draft to a young adult novel I’ve been working on. Ever since then I’ve been busy – tidying my desk, hanging out the washing, checking Facebook, anything to avoid editing. In short, I knew there were parts that needed expanding on, there were parts that needed greater research, there were characters that needed more substance, there were parts that just weren’t working. But doing this seemed almost impossible. It wasn’t so much the what needed to be done I had troube with, as the how to change it. Hence the procrastinating began.
Until last week when I was fortunate enough to hear author Arnold Zable give a workshopping on overcoming writer’s block. In it he was really explaining how to make your work, work. When you get to that point where you’re just about ready to give up on the whole thing, how do you go back and make it better instead of putting in the back of a drawer somewhere? There were so many useful tips in his workshop, and I highly recommend going along to one of his workshops if you see one’s running. Two points he made seem quite simple but have having a go at this has actually, I feel, breathed some new life into my story. One was playing around with tense (past, present) and perspective (first, second or third person voice). The other was deleting the first line, first couple of lines or indeed first paragraph and see how the story unfurls from there. Both have proved immeasurably useful to me and I’m getting excited by the story again, and finding new areas to delve into.
Next will be tackling the details of the story. Zable recommends firstly contracting the story (by removing any cliches in the storytelling), and secondly expanding the story (by including the fine, specific details of the text). So there’s much work to be done but instead of dreading the editing process I’m now excited by it, and can’t wait to have more fun playing around with the story!
And my final, parting tip – save each draft separately. More than being able to go back to original drafts later on, it gives you the freedom to play around with ideas without worrying that you might have lost a better, earlier draft in the process.