I wanted to write a blog post that entertained or meant something, but it feels wrong to be funny when the world is so grim, and currently my insights are as scattered as my concentration. So you get a stream of consciousness about my current editing strife instead. Sorry about that.
Recently I looked back at my record of word counts, and discovered I started writing my WIP in December 2015. I finished the first draft in March 2016, and I’ve been editing ever since. During that time I’ve changed the story substantially, learned a lot, and written enough scenes for five books.
Okay, probably not five. But I have scrapped and replaced a lot.
I even sent the story to beta readers once. The feedback? Parts were good, but what the main character was doing for most of the book had nothing to do with the main quest.
I’ve pulled the whole book apart and put it back together again. I’ve solved some problems and introduced others.
And along the way I’ve discovered some truths. In case they’re helpful for you, or you enjoy laughing at my pain, here they are.
If a scene is a nightmare to write, it is terrible, unnecessary, or both
My word count record tells me that some days first drafting I wrote 4000 words. Most days I didn’t.
Some scenes were exciting and fun to write. Others were like trying to remove my own appendix with broken glass.
Guess which got cut in the next round of editing.
In 99% of cases when I find a scene agonising to write, it’s because it doesn’t make sense or shouldn’t be a scene. In the other 1% of cases, it’s because I’m trying to write during the apocalypse and my focus is shredded.
That line I love and saved–it doesn’t fit where I’ve crammed it into a different scene
And it never will.
Like everyone, occasionally I write a line I love so much that I want to dress it in a tux and take it to formal. And when the scene a beloved line is in gets cut, I’ll do anything to save it.
Including excising the line and stitching it into a different scene.
The problem I’ve discovered when I reread the new scene is that the line never fits. It was born in one ecosystem, and it can’t thrive in another.
It must die.
For your reading pleasure, here are two I cut that won’t sound as good out of context (or so I’ll tell myself when you point out you hate them).
He felt as if he’d stepped on something dead and couldn’t shake it from his foot.
Hermaen downed his ale and left as dusk was filling the alleys with shadows. A brisk wind swept up the city streets and ruffled his soul.
MC’s companion does have a personality, and it’s not what I thought
One major character, a companion of the main character, has given me no end of difficulty.
I built him from the backstory up several times, but I could never quite hear his voice or figure out what he wanted.
I even changed his name once, which I almost never do.
Maybe he was getting revenge. In an early draft he was going to be eaten by a dragon right at the start.
Then in draft nine I finally discovered who he was and what he wanted.
It wasn’t what I thought and it’s going to mean even more rewriting, but I’m okay with that. I grateful he finally let me know him. I don’t hold a grudge at all, honest. There’s no chance I’m going to kill him off in the sequel.
Scenes whose purpose is “main character talks to people and finds out about X” never work
I should know this, and yet I still try to write such scenes.
Just stop it.
My writing has improved as I’ve gone along
Obviously I’m chuffed that my writing is improving–it would suck if my writing were getting worse.
But it does create a problem: the scenes I wrote recently are better than the ones I wrote early on. And that means all the old scenes need to be rewritten.
No, that’s not smoke coming out my ears. It’s excitement dust. What do you mean that’s not a thing?
Conversations assembled like Frankenstein’s monster read like Frankenstein’s monster
My WIP has (I hope) a plot, and certain conversations are essential to that plot. Other conversations happen by accident when I start writing and get carried away.
From this glorious early draft mess, I’ve cut and pasted, stitched and sutured. And in places I’ve ended up with Frankenstein’s monster.
Real conversations have a flow to them that doesn’t involve big black stitches. While the stitches still show, I’m not done editing.
It’s not all doom and gloom
I read some scenes and can’t believe how much I love my story. At their best, my characters are flawed and spectacular, their problems subtle and world-shattering.
Now I just need to keep editing until I feel that way every scene I read.
I hope you’re keeping safe in your little fragment of the world.
What have you noticed as you edited? Am I the only one who’s had these problems?
Hear more from me, and be the first to know when my WIP is finally ready to be introduced to the world.