Justine: Editing Sucks…Until it Doesn’t

angry business woman throws punch into computer, screamingI am in the throes of editing my first novel. I’ve never done this before. I’ve written a first draft…numerous times. But I have never gone back through and cleaned it up to make it spit-shined, polished, and ready for the world.

My thoughts on the process? Editing sucks.

I finished my draft, read through the whole thing from beginning to end, and focused on the high-level changes that thought I needed to make. And about ¼ of the way into my first chapter, I was so overwhelmed by my perceived flaws that I didn’t think they were surmountable. I was ready to toss the whole story and start over. At a minimum, I wanted to play the avoidance game, doing such things as scrubbing tile grout or watching repeat episodes of The Queen while eating lots of chocolate.

It was bad.

But I slogged my way through that first chapter. And the second. And the third, fourth, etc. until I got to the 8th chapter, and then suddenly, everything seemed easier. I was even able to look back at the changes I’d made to the first few chapters and see my (new) flaws there, as well. Not only that, I have extrapolated those flaws into what I have to do to the rest of the book (again, at a very high level) to improve it.

I’m not sure what happened…whether I had some sort of clarifying dream moment or something, but all I know is that editing doesn’t suck anymore.

Has this been your experience? Tell me, fellow writers, what happened when you edited your first novel? How is it different when you’re editing your fifth? Or fiftieth? Does it get better all the time? Or do you still have moments of “oh Lordy there’s no fixing this?”

5 thoughts on “Justine: Editing Sucks…Until it Doesn’t

  1. For a long time, I was under the misconception that “editing” meant “copy-editing” — smoothing out the small flaws, and at most, changing some continuity things (my character is allergic to fire, but I later have him smoking cigs . . . so the cigs went out).

    But it does include that high-level stuff, and I have the same despair you did about it never being able to be fixed. With short stories, I just start with new words on top of the old structure, and things work out. But it’s so heartbreaking to throw away all those old words when we’re talking more than 20,000 words. But, watching Jenny and her edits over at Argh Ink, that’s exactly what it takes. Keep the structure that works, fix the structure that doesn’t, and then yeah, plaster it over with brand-new words for the most part.

  2. I’ve absolutely had the same experience! I’ve finished 3 novellas in the past 15 months or so. And I’ve noticed that, once it was time to edit them, the first 3 chapters for each needed the most work. For me, it hasn’t gotten easier from one book to the next. But I have noticed that my first-draft-first-chapters are getting better, if that makes sense. Even with that improvement, they still need lots of buffing and polishing–just seems to be the way it goes.

    • Well, you’re consistent, which is a good thing, and yay you for your first chapters improving over time. I’m hoping that’s the case with me. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t, though, because I think regardless of whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, it takes time to settle into your book–and your characters. At least that’s what’s happened to me on this one.

      I think every book, if we want it to be good, will require ample buffing and polishing. Like you said, that’s just the way it goes!

  3. I’ve been through this process five times now. It got easier after McDaniel because I had a much better picture of the end product I was trying to create. That said, when I got the content edits back from my editor on my McDaniel manuscript, it took me a month to wrap my head around her suggested changes and two months to actually make the changes. I was still pretty far off the mark.

    The next book after that was still easier because I had an even better idea going in of what I needed to do (e.g. have the hero/heroine together on every page, if not physically, at least in their thoughts).

    Hoping the trend continues!

    • “Hoping the trend continues!” Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m hoping…that I CREATE a trend that has me improving as I go. They say practice makes perfect, and this IS my first book I’m editing (although it’s the third or so draft).

      I’ll have to go back and look at more closely at my book re: the H&H on the page (or at least in their thoughts). That’s what led to the draft of the book I currently have. My H&H were never together in the previous iteration. That does not make for good romance.

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