Editing is Work

I just finished editing chapter eight in Kiss of The Fey. That leaves seven chapters and the epilogue to go, then reading through the whole thing once more and trying to get a few people (besides my mom…) to read it. It’s a pain to edit it, mostly because I wrote out all the edits so it’s bothersome to edit the actual computer document.

To give you an idea of the number of changes that goes into the making of a novel (and I consider these changes to be quite minor) here is a list:

  • I actually gave some lines to Johara’s half-sister. And completely changed the opening scene to make that happening, changing a bunch of info-dumping while Johara was trying to sleep into a ballroom scene.
  • I cut lots of scenes with three characters. I changed their motivations and two are killed much earlier than originally.
  • I completely cut out a subplot. In the beginning, Johara was stabbed by an enchanted dagger that put her into an enchanted sleep, which is how Xenos met her. The original plot will be explained down below. *
  • I’ve decided that my characters need last names. Sigh. I was going to just make it “Johara of Blairford” or “Xenos of Malum” but then Johara’s maid could say she was Lorn of Malum and there would be nothing marking her apart from Xenos. I fought with this early on in writing and decided that I didn’t want to bother. However, I’ve changed my mind and now must go back and give everyone names. Bleh.
  • I needed to change how my characters felt towards each other. Johara and Xenos became friends too quickly. Xenos is known far and wide as Xenos the Horrid, so it made no sense that she was okay with him right away.
  • I gave Johara more personality. I hope.
  • Xenos is less dramatic. He acted like a teenager sometimes, and he’s like 30. So.
  • Orion is less like fanfic Dumbledore.
  • I completely changed the dramatic climax scene and replaced it with a subplot’s scene due to the deletion of the major subplot discussed below.
  • Obviously I fixed all weird typos, awkward phrasings, and things like that. Stuff that I typed up in a rush and said “WTF” when I looked back at it.
  • I still need to fix some scenes once I’m all done to add more thoughts of home and stuff like that. Little things here and there.

Again, all these things are pretty minor. I’m only completely rewriting a few scenes. Granted, this novel started off as a G-rated novella, so I guess that counts as an edit.

*Okay, this is the most unnecessarily complicated subplot I’ve ever thought of. Johara needed someone to stab her. I decided that it would be some thugs hired by the King of Yacia. The King of Yacia stabbed a ransom note to the girl in the hope of getting enough gold to buy an army. However, the ransom note soaked through with blood and was never read. Once that failed, he sent his thugs to Malum after Johara married Xenos to steal a lock of Johara’s hair to make a love potion. The King of Yacia gave the love potion to Prince Kain of Yacia so that he would fall in love with Johara and try to go carry her off and be killed by Xenos. See, because the King of Yacia had a magic bracelet that switched his mind with the body of his brother. He truly the brother of the king, and he’d been locked up for killing the Queen of Yacia. He’d had comfy enough quarters to get thugs to put the bracelet on his brother to make him king, and threw his brother (in his body) into the dungeons. But the bracelet wasn’t infinite, and it would switch them back soon, so he hoped to get Kain killed (since he wouldn’t be able to buy an army to defeat his brother) so that he would be his brother’s heir so that he could just kill him and grab the throne.

Did you follow that? No? Yeah, my mom didn’t get it either. I decided to make it WAY simpler than that. At the first mention of this plot I wrote “CONVOLUTED AS FUCK” during editing and knew I had to change it.

Has anyone else made big changes while editing? (And honestly, I don’t think these changes are that big.) Feel free to share in a comment or blog about your own experience with editing and share the link!

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Editing – You Have to Embrace Change

So you finished a story. Whether it be a novel, a short story, or some 10,000 word rambling you don’t know what to call. Congratulations! You finished. That’s great. That’s the first step.

Now, you have to take a step back and look at it. You go and fix all those your/you’re confusion or when you accidentally made your character pray to “Gid”. All those little errors that you know are hiding in there from your mad dash at writing.

You’re done now, right? All grammar errors are fixed and all typos have been abolished. You’ve finished your story! It’s all done.

WRONG. BAD YOU, IF YOU AGREED WITH ME.

There is more to a story than grammar. What if all of your sentences are too short? What if ALL your verbs have adverbs riding on their tails? What if you only say “Said” four times, and the rest of the time it was “Yelled,” “Decided,” “Expressed,” “Hissed,” “Gulped,” or “Addressed”? What if your chapters are wildly uneven or your “novel” is only 30,000 words? Or it’s a romance at 300,000?

Still, that’s just surface things. Those are writing elements that you can improve as you grow as a writer. That’s still not focusing on the content of your story.

What if your character starts loving their love interest for no reason? What if by giving your MC’s mom “cool”, you actually made them annoying as fuck? What if your plot is weak, or your character motivations just aren’t there? What if all of your characters are flat generic bores with no differences between them? What if there’s nothing realistic about your story, like a girl from a trailer park owning a brand new BMW?

Some people forget that looking at this is a part of revising your work. The problem is, you might not see it in your own story. I had to reread my novel Kiss of The Fey at least four times before realizing that my MC never mentioned her family after she was taken away from them. The plot I had set up was convoluted as fuck (I actually wrote that in the margin while revising) and it took me days to think or something that would be simpler to replace it. I cut characters and cut scenes, even scenes that had really good lines in them. (I know how it feels to write a sentence that comes out flawlessly, but if it doesn’t fit you have to take it out.) My characters started liking each other too quickly and the old warlock acted too much like a typical old warlock.

I knew I had to change a lot, and I know I’m still not done. I’m a critical reader, even on my own work. Until I can get someone to tear it apart, I know it won’t be as good as it can be. I urge everyone to find a critical reader of their own. Don’t ask for a reader to fix your spelling or grammar, and don’t ask them to help with sentence structure. Ask them to dig deep and find the structural issues in your story. John Green agrees that an editor’s job is not to correct grammar, but to help your story make sense as a whole. I know that those kinds of changes are the painful ones, like when someone tells you your main character is boring or that the plot was stupid and didn’t make sense.

Some people can do this on their own, but many become too attached to what they’ve already written and refuse to rid their story of what shouldn’t be there. Either way, you need to remember why you write. If you write for yourself, don’t bother changing anything. It doesn’t matter. If writing is what pleases you, just keep writing. However, if you plan to have your story available to a wider audience, you need to EDIT. Edit that baby so hard that it’s almost unrecognizable in the end. Don’t just change a sentence here and there, change entire scenes, entire subplots.

Listen to what others say to make your story the best it can be. If ten people say “Oh, that’s great” but one person says “They fell in love too fast” you need to examine to see if that second person is true. You don’t have to try to change your work to please everyone, but I know that some readers just don’t care about quality as much as others. I’ve had people tell me I should get truly shitty writing published. It’s the critical readers you need, whether they’re right or not, to help improve your writing.

So go forth, write, but remember the importance of editing.