In high school, oh how I detested editing, though then it always included rewriting. There were no laptops and desktops. I had an old manual typewriter, all my school papers had to be written by hand.
Thus was my dislike for editing born.
Even now, when I write by hand, tension increases until my hand cramps. Back then, I shunned hand correcting and the rewriting that would follow. You can imagine the number of assignments returned with lectures about proofreading my work.
Somewhere along the line, the reason for my editing phobia became lost and carried over to using computers.
Though my appreciation for editing began to evolve early in the last decade, it wasn’t until a handful of years ago that there was a monumental shift in my perception of the task.
A shift from mending to elevating.
All at once, editing went from a chore to an opportunity.
Of course, computers make it easier. As someone who was a sickly child and missed a lot of school, I value the ease of spellchecking and grammar checking my work.
It goes deeper than that, though.
The shift occurred while working on A River in Each Hand. It happened during the Time Library scenes. To say it was boring in the first draft is an understatement. In the first revision, though, instead of trying to force what existed to work, I reimagined it. So much so that the changes reverberated through the book and uncovered a deeper story.
Seeing opportunities was even happening while drafting Case of the Deadly Stroll last November. Again, it was because my editing mindset has changed.
This last week was my transition from drafting to editing, which I’ll be doing for most of the year. I was anxious to return to my Carrdia novels (Carrdia is near the Tremjara continent center, while Pannulus is off the east coast).
To aid the change, I edited a Pannulus novella, A Truth so Close. The protagonist, Ammie, is only sixteen, the story centered around her journey to self-acceptance. It then felt natural to step into Torment Surfacing, a novel about seventeen year-old Kasaria.
From teen to teen.
The novel is unique because it’s been edited once. As was the case with River, I greatly enhanced the tale during that first edit. It’s happening again with the realization of how much the novel come full circle. Yes, any good ending should evoke the beginning, but this is more than that. The beginning and end possess multiple parallel moments that draw stark contrasts.
How, though, do I draw a stark contrast between the mending and elevating mindsets? How do I help someone experience the same shift I did? I’m hoping I can do so using my favorite novel writing analogy…
The value of editing can be seen when you compare it to building a house.
To begin, it’s about ideas and brainstorming. You can liken this phase to choosing the home’s site and deciding on the style home you want.
A novel surfaces with at least a glimmer of a plot and a protagonist. The genre, too, of course. Maybe the time and place? Images might be bouncing around in your head.
Eventually, the home moves from an idea to more serious planning, like blueprints. A construction company is chosen. Permits and any other legal aspects are addressed.
The planning phase for a novel might include backstory, character sketches, some form of outline, and so on.
Framing is drafting. It’s the exhilaration of the home rising and taking shape. A roof and walls are added. You can walk rooms and climb stairs. You can honestly tell people that you have a home and can point at it.
The same is true with the draft. There’s the exhilaration of committing an idea to written form. Rather than rising, it stretches from opening to denouement. Afterwards, you can point at it and say, I wrote this. I have a book. It’s that thrill that NaNoWriMo is built on.
Then, what is editing?
Well, we can look at the house analogy two ways.
With the mending mindset you’d cover up any nail holes, sweep the place out, bring in your personal possessions, and decide where you want to sleep. Outside, you’d watch the grass come up.
With the enhancing mindset there’d be serious interior decorating and landscaping. You’d imagine each room, colors and styles. That means fabrics, paint, and wallpaper. You’d want it to reflect your personality and tastes. Each room would be its own experience.
Outside, you’d plant trees and shrubs. Maybe a pool? Hey, why not go for it all and build a tennis court.
This isn’t an exact science, of course. Some of it depends on your process, and the fact I’ve never built a house. In a general sense, though, it holds. Give ten people the same home and they’ll all look different in the end. That’s the challenge, and opportunity, of editing. So please give it a chance. You’re craft will thank you. You’re future writing self will thank you even more.
If you get it right?
It’s like transforming the word skyscraper into the Chrysler Building into iconic. It was a building that transformed the New York skyline. Begun in the Roaring Twenties, it was completed at the onset of the Great Depression. It’s historic. It’s a true representation of Art Deco.
It also influenced the skyline of fictional Duskspell in my fantasy novel, The Case of the Deadly Stroll. How’s that for impact?