I’m sure there are lots of different editing processes out there – and I am certainly no expert in any of them. But I have written two books now, and I’ve found my editing process to be vastly different from one book to the other, and I’m curious to see which one pans out for me in the end.
My first book I edited as I have edited pretty much everything I’d written previously, essays for school, short stories, what have you. I edited as I went. I was very much stuck in the mindset that it had to be perfect the first time, and I could spend ages just trying to get one sentence right. I’d write a couple of pages, then I would go back over them and clean them up, straightaway, before moving onto the next pages, and then I would repeat the process – write, clean, repeat. But it didn’t stop there, oh no. Every so often, maybe I’d be fifty pages in now, maybe now eighty, I would go back to the beginning and read through it all again, editing everything once more as I went. I edited things that I had previously edited, and I’d probably end up editing them again. I find most times when I read through something, there’s always something I want to change – it’s not always big, sometimes it’s as simple as swapping two words, subbing a word, taking one out, etc. But the editing process never ever felt quite complete.
And it took forever. I’m not saying that process is wrong. Everybody writes and edits in their own way, and that was the way I had always done it. But for my second novel, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to be able to write, purely write, and not get bogged down in the perfection and beautification of the writing.
So I wrote my second novel without looking back. I wrote it beginning to end, without stopping, and then I finished it, and I saved it for the last time on my laptop, and then I closed it, and I have yet to pick it up again. Because along with wanting to try purely writing, I also want to wait, give myself time to forget things, before picking it back up and going in to edit. I want to be able to look at it with completely fresh eyes.
I’ve never written, or edited, in this way before, and as I have yet to pick up my second book for editing yet, I still cannot tell you which method I prefer or think works better for me, but I’m excited to find out how this way of doing things will turn out for me.
As far as writing it straight-through, without stopping to go back and read anything or fix anything, I must say I quite enjoyed it. It was very liberating. It was hard at first; probably in my first two chapters or so, I was still stuck in my old method, but I soon managed to shake myself loose of the writing perfectionist, and just let the story flow. And I gotta say, I am so in love with this story; I absolutely cannot wait to go back and clean it up, make it as brilliant as I think it can be.
I finished my second novel at the end of September of this year. I began it at the end of March, so it took me about seven months to write – which is nothing compared to the two or so years it took me to finish my first book (although, to be fair, the first book was written while I was still in school, and there were semester-long gaps of no work done on that novel). I think I may start editing the second novel in January, so that’s a three-month break, which to me feels like forever, but I’ve read suggestions of leaving off editing for six months to a year. I’m in debate as to whether I want to edit this novel first, or hold off even longer and power through a first draft of my next novel first before returning to this one to edit. I suppose I’ll make up my mind in January.
Although I won’t know for sure until I’ve started, I have a good feeling about this editing process. I loved the straight-through writing part. Let’s hope the waiting and returning to edit part is also successful.