On Editing My Second Novel

*Note: I did a post on writing my second novel, which can be found here. Also, this blog post is kind of a mess because it’s been a weekend. Hope ya’ll had a happy turkey day*

November was not a fun month. October saw a big decrease in my work hours because downsizing, and that lead to me getting a new job in November. The catch is that it’s temporary hours until they feel like I’ll be worth keeping. That’s because Wisconsin. I’ve been stressed out, I’ve been drinking more than normal, and overall, I’ve just been extra tired.

Strangely enough, it’s been the perfect month to edit. Working part time means having four extra hours in the day; though sadly enough, I’ve needed all four of those hours.

And that, friends, is my roundabout way of saying, “Editing The Grimoire Library was a bitch!”

It started on November second, actually. I wanted two full months of space between draft one and draft two, which was a red flag going in. I was chomping at the bit to edit The Ninth Life (my first novel) and really excited to return to Amp (a novella I wrote earlier in the year) when that time came around, but with this book, I really, really didn’t want to look at it. I was terrified it would be a nightmare mess, and in some respects, it really was.

My first rule of writing something big is this: The first draft always sucks.

It’s a rule because if the first draft didn’t suck, there wouldn’t be any editing. It’s a rule because I’m a flawed, stupid individual with his head too far up his ass. It’s a rule because it’s just really obvious, isn’t it?

I go into projects explicitly stating, “The first draft will suck,” yet always I come into the second draft disappointed and shocked at how much the first draft sucked. You’d think I’d be used to it, especially in this case where I knew it was a mess. I’ve always been one to procrastinate though, which means I didn’t really prepare over these last two months.

November 2nd! I opened up my rusty draft one document and remembered I forgot to add chapter breaks to this novel because originally it was supposed to be a novella. When the project changed from novella to novel, I felt some tickle of OCD kick in; the first half had no chapter breaks, so the second half won’t either! It could wait. Whoops. The rule of thumb with chapter breaks is, “Chapters are as long as they need to be” which is nice when you’re writing a chapter book but kind of a pain when you’re chunking a huge wall of text into something manageable.

I also decided I wanted to name all of the chapters, and in my typical stupid fashion, I went with a convention that wasn’t the easiest thing to work with and stuck with it for all 25 chapters. Silly me!

So the first day of editing was hard. I spent four hours going through 12 single-spaced pages over and over again trying to fix things to my liking. I rewrote the last three or so pages . I finished late at night and poured myself a stiff glass of whiskey while contemplating the futility of even finishing.

Melodramatic? Yes. But all good authors are alcoholics and while I’m not a good author, I can at least meet half of that criteria.

Day two went a bit better, as did days three and four. On the whole, after the first initial shock, I just got kind of used to what I had to do. Editing sessions were always long though, averaging about two and a half hours regardless of chapter length. I recall spending two hours rewriting one single-spaced page somewhere in the middle of the book because I just couldn’t make it work.

The thing about editing is I don’t like it. Well, that’s not entirely true; I do like taking a thing and making it better. Hell, if I could get a job as an editor, I’d grab it in a heartbeat. It’s fun. But editing your own big projects isn’t fun. It’s basically looking at yourself in the mirror and pointing out every flaw you have and then hoping you can fix all of those flaws.

I’m an insecure person when the door is closed and the windows are shut. I keep that from most people, but my writing abilities or lack thereof do keep me up at night.

(I suppose I’m lucky in that’s what gives me anxiety and not, say, credit card bills or you know, real problems.)

But I’m getting off track. Sorry. So back to editing: I did a lot of rewrites this go around, moreso than any other projects I’ve worked on save maybe The Regret of Vitrerran which kind of doesn’t count. Video game writing is way too different than novel writing—I consider writing for that game to be kind of a puzzle, which gives it a nice flavor and makes the headache of, “This sucks; how do I fix it?” much more bearable.

What I found in rewriting The Grimorie Library is that I hate the style I wrote it in. Well, that’s not entirely fair, but it’s close. It started off as a novella, so I was going with something a bit more minimalistic to fit everything into a tighter space. As it grew, I kept that style, and going back meant getting rid of that a bit. The writing was bland—and if I’m being honest, still kind of is.

This dumb little blog I keep is a big mess of book reviews and other things, and if there’s one thing I’ve kept consistent, it’s I don’t really care for young adult fiction. Some is okay, but on the whole, the prose is very “telly” with not enough show. It’s boring, or at least, not very engaging.

As bitter fucking irony would have it, that’s what I wrote!

What I found myself doing time and time again was taking big, chunky paragraphs, deleting them ,and writing shorter, descriptive scenes. I paired this book down by about 7,000 words, and I made it more engaging. Well, that’s the hope.

There are places with a lot of life in this book, but there are still too many that are lifeless. That needs to be fixed.

This leads me to my second rule of editing: Draft two sucks too.

I learned that rule the hard way, when I went into draft three of The Ninth Life. I was so sure I had made it perfect on the first sweep—because I’m an idiot—and realized that nope, it was still a mess. It took four rounds of editing to get that into a worthwhile reading package, and hell, it could still probably be trimmed here or there.

So draft two of The Grimoire Library is finished and still a mess. That’s maybe okay though because it’s supposed to be a mess. It’s at least better. I plan on shipping it off two a few people that I trust, and they’ll yell at me and tell me what to fix.

December is going to be a break, which is good because I’ll be getting more hours at the new job. January though, god damn that month is going to be rough.

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