As a Newbie Novelist, I often hear that the biggest challenge for most new writers is seeing a project to the end. Last week, I hit a personal achievement by reaching the end of my current WIP, The Uprising: Kingdom in Shadow. At 125,000 words, this is my longest novel written to date.
Two types of Newbies
In the Writing Excuses podcast, author Brandon Sanderson claims that there are two types of Newbie writers.
The first is the “first chapter revisor”. This type will go back and edit their first chapter over and over again in the search for pure literary perfection, thus crippling their ability to finish their book. The second is the “non-editor”. This type will churn out a book and will be done with it without diving deeper into the editing phase. Basically, one edits too much and the other edits too little.
“Only a blank page needs no editing”Marty Rubin
I recently wrote a post about developing a writing process, which included my personal writing process. However, my post only accounted for the conception phase through the drafting phase. Conveniently, I left the editing process out.
For so long I have been in that second group of Newbie writers, starting a project and pushing through with equal thirds inspiration, grit, and determination. Once finished, I’d file it away, save a backup file on a flash drive, and call it a day.
Editing can be scary
I feared the editing process for many reasons. The strongest on my laundry list of fears was that I would wind up reading what I wrote only to hate it. I feared being discouraged by amateur writing, plots holes, and inconsistencies littered throughout my hard work. Even when I accepted that the wrinkles of a novice writer will iron out with practice, I feared what I had written was garbage.
Instead of seeing the editing process as a big tentacle monster of self-doubt, I tried to shift my perspective. Rather than looking at editing as a magnifying glass, pointing out the flaws of my writing, I needed to learn the wonders of it.
With 125k words of a first draft simmering before I start to edit, I still fear that I will read over my work and find a steaming dumpster fire. Such is life.
What comes next?
For me, editing is an opportunity to revisit exactly what got me excited about the story’s concept. If I liked an idea enough to commit thousands of words to it, surely this shouldn’t be too hard. The grueling process that follows not only makes the plot, language, and characterizations of the novel stronger, but also does wonders to fine-tune writing skills.
Editing often feels like untangling a web or putting together a puzzle. All the pieces of the picture are there, but it isn’t finished or complete. It usually takes me longer to edit a chapter than it does to write one from scratch. When I let my mind wander while drafting a scene, I allow myself to write badly. This means I have to reel it all in while editing.
A realization I came to is that, like so many things in writing, editing is a process. Seeking perfection is a fool’s errand. While editing, the goal should be continuous development and baby steps towards improvement.
What I find helps is to have other people involved in the editing process. Critique groups are a big asset. Not only do they catch small typos and writing mistakes, but they can also be an amazing soundboard for the story. An extra set of eyes can point out what works and what doesn’t.
As I am about to embark on editing my current WIP, I hope to find a deeper understanding and love for my story. I hope to flush out my characters further. And, I wish to elevate my novel to be the very best it can be.
Should be easy…right?