August 18, 2011

Things you may observe about editing a novel

Dishes accumulate more quickly than can be accounted for. In fact, all dishes and cutlery are dirty, in spite of the cessation of all cooking. (The most alarming thing about this is how little you are inclined to care.)

Your stomach never stops growling in spite of heretofore-unheard-of (read: confessed) indulgences sanctioned due to state of grievous emergency. (May include but not limited to Chinese takeout, energy drinks, garlic crackers, stale Cadbury mini-eggs.)

Most novels you will think about or pick up are better than your novel in its current state. (Heart-rendingly, soul-crushingly better.) Nevertheless, any momentary self-doubt cannot be given free rein to disrupt your terrified output of what you fervently hope is some reasonable approximation of brilliance.

August 7, 2011

How to edit a novel

First: leave it alone. For a long time. In fact, if you don't look at it even once for almost eleven months, that's just about perfect.

Then think about all the parts you remember that make you cringe. Resolve to do away with them. Remember how you imagined your novel back when it was something you were excited to start working on.

Next, get notes from a careful reader or editor. Believe them. Compare them to what you already know about problems in the novel. Think carefully about possible solutions.

Last: cut ruthlessly. Experience elation.

I'm kidding about the list (although it doesn't strike me as bad advice), but in my case, this is more or less what has happened. I received my notes from my editor on July 15 (seven single-spaced, 10-point font pages of awesome insight), and after one week of mulling and strategizing here in the city, I took two weeks of vacation in which I planned to make a big push on the edits.

And last night I got home from two wonderful weeks in the country where I had planned to buckle down and edit edit edit like crazy. And editing in this case was going to mean writing whole new sections from scratch, since I decided I wanted to cut about a third of the existing text.

I did a fair chunk, but not enough. There were other commitments and distractions (mostly good ones), and the summer is so short here, I thought I ought to give it its due, which meant hiking up mountains, trips to the water park, stargazing, and cookouts down by the lake. No regrets, but I'm going to have to make a strict plan for how to get through the rest of it.

At the moment, I'm 28,000 words lighter (though this is likely to change), and the novel is finally beginning to be something closer to what I imagined it back in 2007...before I started writing it.

January 24, 2011

cold days

A cold day is a good day for blogging.

There has been very little writing in my world lately, but a lot of doing and feeling, all of which can only be good for the writing in the long run.

One of the not-writing things I've been doing is running through the entirety of Downton Abbey. It was a nice transition from The Little Stranger, the last novel I finished and which I also recommend. Read & watch back-to-back for seamless immersion in the grand British world of turn-of-the-century failing estates and antiquated class systems.