Hello and welcome to the fourth instalment of Living the Dream; the series that delves into my dealings where reading and, more pertinently, writing are concerned.
For the first three of this series (actually for every single post to date) I prewrote them so that I could fine-tune when it came time to post. However, on this occasion I’m writing this just the day before it’s due to go live on Paul.E.Bailey’s World.
There is a good reason for that. The reason is the theme of this post (and raising a son of course).
I am feverishly and incessantly editing my ‘big project’. It’s the second time of doing so. After my good friend Steve (please follow his blog Just a few words about… by the way) proofread the first edit for me, he suggested a different route to take in the prologue and it was a route I immediately agreed was a better one.
So the second edit began in earnest. Not only have parts of the story had to change completely, but I’ve also been working on reducing the word count mainly by making the sentence and word structure more succinct (for example, he was extremely happy that they had arrived would now become he was happy they’d arrived. I might keep the extremely if it’s absolutely necessary).
It’s an arduous process, but I think any and all story writers will agree it’s absolutely necessary. It’s every bit as important as writing the story in the first place in my opinion.
You will never get a story right first time. It’s impossible. There’ll always be a bit or two that needs tweaking even if only infinitesimally. As my story is over 300,000 words long there will probably never be a time where I’m one hundred percent happy with it, but I need to get it as near as damnit.
Editing isn’t easy. It’s basically admission that what you did wasn’t right the first time. There’s no shame in it, but come on; we all like to think our literary offerings are absolutely brilliant, don’t we? It’s a real heart vs mind affair.
You have to decide what isn’t good enough that needs changing or even getting rid of bits completely.
My story was what it was. The change I ended up making hasn’t massively affected the way the story flows, but it has changed the story if only a little bit. In some ways, that makes me feel melancholy because for years that first version of events was the only version of events. There was no Plan B in that first instance. As far as I was concerned, the story was going to go the way it did and it was never going to deviate.
In essence, my changing the story in that one bit of the prologue means the original bit will effectively no longer exist. All that creative literature will never be seen aside from those who have been lucky enough to read it already. Obviously I’ve kept the first edit, but it’ll never be the edit I send to agents when the time comes.
When you think about it, that’s quite sad isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong. The changes are necessary. They make the story better. In fact they make the story fantastic in my humble opinion. I absolutely love this mammoth-sized novel I’ve created and am genuinely excited to get it out into the public forum. Whether it’ll do well is in the hands of those who read it, but every bit of my heart and soul has gone into writing it.
Anyway, I digress slightly. This second edit is likely to be the edit. It’ll be the one that meets the eyes of agents and perhaps publishers and it makes me feel guilty for consigning that poor first edit in the dark corner of my hard drive somewhere. What did it ever do wrong?
Editing is seriously cutthroat. You have to be ruthless to do it. I remember editing Horror Holiday (the story I wrote in my teens) and I changed rather a lot about it. I never saved the original version and I hate that because I can’t remember how it went. I know it was rudimentary and lacking in a literary sense, but that’s not the point. I put so much into that story at such a young age and I should’ve saved that original manuscript.
I did the same with my current story. The first edit is there saved and safe, but the very original version I wrote is no more. I edited so much in the first edit that the story was almost entirely altered, but I have no idea how the original version read at all.
The lesson here is always save your originals! I mean every time! Even if you think it’s no good. Just save it. You’ll regret it one day if you don’t. Having that history to look back on is so important I feel. It’s so easy to just think “ah, that isn’t good enough” and then crack on changing it, but think for a moment about the effort you put into that original version. It was the first ever appearance of those ideas you had in physical form. That original deserves your respect and your love.
I might actually sound like I’m down on editing here, but I assure you that isn’t the case. It has its sadistic side, but that’s not the intent of an edit. Its primary purpose is to improve. It doesn’t intentionally kill the previous version; it merely looks to improve the product as a whole. So I’m very pro editing as long as the changes aren’t for change’s sake.
But as aforementioned, you should show the respect that the original deserves. Without the original there would be no product to begin with. I’ll never make the mistake of not saving an original again; for the sake of nostalgia if nothing else.
It’s fair to say editing is fun though. Frustrating, but fun. I love watching how the story transforms as I change little details here and there. I love knowing that I’m giving my story the time and attention to detail that it deserves. Each moment I spend making it better, the better it will serve me when the time comes to lay myself on the line and present to agents and publishers.
In conclusion then, the original has its job. It serves its purpose by being the middle. The idea, the brainstorming session you initially have, the synopsis; that’s the beginning. The original lays its life down in service to the grander scheme. It gives itself away to the edit; the end. Because everything has a beginning, middle and end. Not just the story, but the makings of the story too.
The edit is the finished product. The original is the product in production. The idea is the product being conceived. It all sews together seamlessly and beautifully. Each part of the process is just as important as the other.
I think writing is so simple. That’s not to say I believe I’m brilliant at it. I know I could be better. I could have paid more attention in English at school and learned the craft much better. To the day, I couldn’t properly describe what nouns, verbs, adjectives and all those things are. But I don’t think you need to in order to write a good story. All you need is a good idea and the passion to write. I have the latter and I like to think I have the former too. I understand what it takes to write a story and what ingredients are needed.
Hopefully I’ve taken what I know and written a story that’s going to kick-start the career I yearn for. I guess that’s something I’ll find out before long.
Have you ever had to edit your work before? Has the process of editing ever put you off continuing? Are you brave enough to throw your work out there without reading through and editing? As ever, your thoughts are welcomed and comments appreciated. Thank you for reading.