Argh—So Much Editing

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

Every time I finish a round of editing on my novel manuscript I think something along the lines of, “Cripes, it’s so much better now.” This has happened about fifteen or sixteen times and it makes me afraid of how crappy the first drafts must have been.

Many of the major structural changes my MS has undergone has been the result of interaction with other writers, particularly through feedback from good beta readers, and by beta reading for others (when I notice mistakes in their MSS, I sometimes realize I’ve made the same mistakes in my own).

Currently, I’m two-thirds done with leaving another mess on the cutting room floor. Yeah—I’m making substantial structural edits though, just a week or two ago, I was sure I was ready for the copy editing phase.

Time to cut that thing up. Photo by DRS Kulturarvsprojekt.

Time to cut that thing up. Photo by DRS Kulturarvsprojekt.

A leopard can’t change its spots, but it’s okay because it was sexy to begin with.

I’ve recently come to accept that there are core aspects of my MS which makes it difficult to successfully pitch to an agent or major trade publisher (i.e., the parts that bars the MS from being “high concept”). To borrow some words from Catherine Czerkawska, my MS might be “too readable to be literary but too quirky to be easily marketed.” If that’s true, even if my writing was superb in certain aspects (and I’m not claiming it is), the Big Five (and, thus, many agents) would be unlikely to pick it up.

It’s quite an undertaking to force something to be super mainstream-friendly when you wrote the first drafts without that intent. While I think I’ve made some strides in getting my novel to be more high concept-y, I don’t think I can get it completely there without cutting out the heart of the work.

So, I’ve been reading more about small presses and doing all I can to make sure my novel is polished in case I go the super-indie route (still may send out a few more agent queries before I submit to small presses, though).

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16 thoughts on “Argh—So Much Editing

    • Yeah, it’s difficult with the first MS, particularly where the initial draft wasn’t high concept to begin with. My later MSS will benefit from my improvements in craft and knowledge of publishing and marketing. I shouldn’t need to make so many revisions.

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  1. Ah, editing. I think you’re attacking it from the right angle, if anything. Keeping in mind what is marketable is very smart if you actually want to pitch to an agent. A lot of writers don’t even care about their audience, and I believe that’s why many remain unpublished.

    Plus, you’ve got a hell of a lot of perseverance. I don’t think agents are very impressed by writers who only put three drafts into a project, as those writers will be slow and reluctant to make more required changes with a deadline looming. I don’t think you’d have that problem 😉

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  2. You are fortunate to have such great feedback. Knowing where you stand in terms of marketing is a huge advantage. And it sounds like you shouldn’t dismiss major pub houses as you’ve spent quality time editing. Maybe if the story is strong enough, though not main stream it will catch and holder an editors attention. Good luck either way!

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    • For my primary MS, I’m thinking I have an okay chance with small presses, but I’m not sure if I’d rather just hire some freelance editor(s) and self-publish so I can have a higher royalty rate and a stronger hold on the rights to my work (of course, the publisher taking care of editing and helping with marketing is very appealing). My chances to snag an agent who is looking for deals with the Big Five is slim and, I believe with my particular circumstances, I don’t need an agent to guide me to a small press or self-publishing.

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  3. I enjoy the editing phase, but it does feel sometimes like we’ll never be done. There’s always something we find to change. At some point I have to just tell myself, “The End” and move on. But it’s easier said than done…

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    • I enjoy most of the editing phase as well. However, it’s taking longer to get to my “The End” moment than I’d like. Thankfully, my future work won’t likely require so changes.

      Probably.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not an acclaimed writer yet..just neophyte..a beginner.But I have been where you are write now…all I can say about editing is that don’t count every word ,make every word count…

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  5. My first novel is eight years in the making (and about fifteen drafts) and I just finished revising it again. But if it gets better each time, it’s worth it, right?

    Hope my feedback was one of the helpful ones, but chances are, you had to disregard some of it. I know…me and my eye for craft problems. 🙂 But I wouldn’t change the heart of your story. It was quirky but it was fun, and to throw that out might make it like other well-selling novels, but it would lose its originality and flavor and become much more bland in the process.

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    • Eight years. That’s a lot of work. 🙂 I’m technically on a sixteenth draft but I count a new draft whenever I finish reading the MS from front to back (the quantity and depth of edits vary greatly with each editing read-through).

      I definitely made use of your feedback in combination with feedback of other folks and I believe the majority of issues you brought up have been fixed. Of course, once those were fixed, later beta readers noticed other problems. Haha.

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  6. I think it is editing one’s own work that is so awful. Just on my blog here, it take me about 15 minutes to write the blog (once I know what I want to write it just works….but of course my blogs are very short). But then I spend about an hour and a half editing a 400 word piece. I HATE that. I hit publish and immediately see another error.

    My husband is a writer, and I edit his work. I can see things he misses because he sees it as he meant it to be, which is what we all do. I feel for you! When I edit his work, I go over it with a fine tooth comb and find lots of little things that he missed, or a sentence here or there which was obvious to him but I found a little confusing. I’m probably missing some errors in this reply!
    I think it would be almost impossible to edit, successfully, a long piece that I had written.

    Good luck and don’t throw everything you own across the room in frustration!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have several projects in the works. My best friend is helping me edit them. He has decided it needs to be edited for the general audience, but when we attempt to do so, so much of what makes it unique at its core just seems to fade away. I think what makes a work unique isn’t always easy for everyone to understand. Here I’m reminded of authors like Philip K Dick, and movies like A Clockwork Orange and Brazil. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Brazil and found something new in it, every time.

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