Random text from a project started years ago and never completed. Photo by author.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve written a lot of first drafts of novels over the years. Probably more than I can count. Certainly more than I can find in my less than adequate filing system. I’ll come across hand-written notes of a story I wrote so long ago that it may as well have been written by another person. Some of the stuff even seems a little bit good.

I may be able to pat myself on the back for finishing a first draft, but I fall down big time when it comes to taking that monstrosity to the next stage. It’s so much more fun to start something than to finish it. Writing, it turns out, is a mess of hard work. Particularly as it comes to editing.

Last year, I decided, damn it, I’m going to finish something. So I took the last novel draft that I’d completed and commenced to editing. Even signed up for a class on editing to help motivate me to complete the project. Well, it took about a year, but I did complete one complete edit pass of my novel which, for lack of a proper title, I call Silverbrook.

Now, let me say first that I am quite proud of myself for accomplishing this milestone. It was huge, and I learned a lot. Some of the things I’ve learned are the following:

  • I hate editing. Over the course of the year, I have certainly gotten better at it, but it is still a disagreeable task. My hope is that I improve sufficiently with my writing that the amount of editing I have to do overall is less and that I get faster at it. No matter how obnoxious editing is, the writing is better for it. Creating good work is important to me.
  • One edit pass isn’t enough. Maybe that will change in the future if I learn to produce better first drafts. This first past needed to make sure that all of the elements that make up a story were present and in their proper place. I tend not to create very detailed outlines before I begin, so the ending often wanders away from the beginning in peculiar directions. For the story to make sense to a reader, I have to fix that. Also, particularly in the case of this particular story, the original ending was awful and I had to come up with something more satisfying.
  • More criticism is better. Maybe you have a roommate who’s a literary editor. I don’t. My spouse will read a story of mine once (he’s not a fan of reading rewrites), and he will give me some good feedback. He reads a lot and he knows what he likes from a book. There’s nothing like having your chapters critiqued by other writers who will honestly tell you what (in their opinion) works, and doesn’t work. As I have been working through the draft, I’ve gotten invaluable feedback from my writing group. I’ll be using it on the next edit pass to make my story stronger.

I’ll be embarking on the next edit pass of this story in a month or so. I’m excited because the feedback has been good and I think one more go through will make the story shine. Based on my learning experience of last year, I expect it to go much more quickly. In fact, I am planning on writing and editing five other books this year, so it has to go faster for me to meet my objectives for the year.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll learn to love editing anytime soon. Perhaps someday it will elevate beyond being a necessary evil. Maybe by 2024?