For the past couple of weeks, I have stopped myself from working on my book to give myself a bit of a break from it. That hasn’t meant that I’ve been able to stop myself from thinking about it, though. I think about the plot threads and settings, characters and their dialogues. Then, I start to wonder if there’s anything I can do to improve them. Or, better yet, make them perfect.
This is where I become conflicted.
The editing process is somewhat new to me. I did it in university when I had to fix up essays or assignments, but I never worried about it much with my creative writing. I didn’t think it was necessary since I hadn’t expected anyone outside of my family and friends to ever read my work. Now that I want to get it out to the public, it’s something that I need to seriously consider.
The problem is that I don’t know how I feel about editing.
I understand that it’s important…to an extent.
I need to make sure that there are no blatant errors or inconsistencies in my work. I often change the names of my characters until I come upon one that seems to fit best. Sometimes a character has something that I leave out later. Once or twice, I even forgot to write about someone who should have been in the scene! Those things I need to fix up.
I might also have to look at some of the characters and try to develop them more (or at least make them more solid in their personalities). This might mean that I provide a little more back-story or give them specific phrases or style of speech they can use.
Plus, I need to focus on the story’s time line and make sure that it makes sense to the reader. When I write, I allow whatever is inside me to come out, whenever it wants. It doesn’t always do so in the correct order. I definitely have to check for that.
In regard to these things, I agree that editing is important.
But, what about after that?
I have talked to a few writers about their thoughts on the editing process. While their ideas vary slightly from one another, the general idea is the same: they believe that a writer needs to edit and edit and edit some more. I have heard of writers who have done six, seven, eight drafts of their book. Some have spent upwards of seven years writing a particular piece.
This frightens me.
It’s not the actual work that I’m afraid of. I have no problem working on a book for years, if that’s what it takes. What worries me is that after doing so many edits over so many years I might lose a lot of the original feel and intent of my book. Characters might change so much that I no longer recognize them. Plot lines could deviate in ways that would lead the book in a whole new direction. At the end of it all, I’m terrified of ruining what I had accomplished.
I understand that there are certain criteria that an agent/publisher demands of its authors. Word count is important for publishing first-time novelists (which concerns me since my manuscript is 300,000 word – waaaay over the 100,000 word cap I’ve heard a lot about). They need to make sure that the book is picked up off of the shelves and don’t want to do anything that would make it look too intimidating. Plus, a lot of extra work goes into making sure that all of the words sound the best that they possibly can. A bigger manuscript means more work.
But, this isn’t as big of a problem if I choose to self-publish (which is why I’m leaning toward that right now). I would have to do the bulk of the work (which I’m willing to do) and there wouldn’t be any concerns about production costs or putting out a book on display that had over a thousand pages and freaked out anyone who passed by.
Again, I don’t know.
As with everything I’ve discovered in the process of writing my book, I’ll need to spend more time thinking about it to figure out what works for me. There isn’t one specific route to follow.
One step at a time, this road hasn’t been easy. But, it has been fun.