… when it’s your first piece of full-length fiction is that you have no bloody idea whatsoever what constitutes a darn good ‘edit’.
I’m not talking about those typos, or the grammar choices (she had not driven there before/she’d not driven there before/she had never driven there before/she didn’t drive there) or those extra spaces after each full stop. They’ll all come later in what I believe might be called a line edit.
Yes, I’ve read blogposts and books and websites on editing. But I don’t think it’s until you have a go at editing your own work, that you realise what editing can truly involve.
For example, I had characters having conversations with each other, in person, who were not even meant to have flown into the country yet 🙈🙄 I mean, who do these people think they are?
Because I did not write this story in chronological order, my timelines were somewhat lacking authenticity. I’d created the majority of my 80,000 words in chunks of prose depending on my mood at the time of typing and slotting them in later … (Lovely, and that scene .. can … go roundabout .. sort of … THERE). And because it took til December to reach a point where I felt I could type those two rites of passage words ‘THE END’ it’s only very recently that I’ve read the whole thing through in one go.
I called it the ‘pink pen’ edit for the benefit of MoW and my insta writing buddies. There was an embarrassing amount to change, I mean seriously. Who told me I could write?? They have such a lot to answer for! Whole paragraphs got chopped and scribbles of much better prose ribboned their way around the edges of the margins. I didn’t have plot holes. I had craters you needed a plane to fly over to have any hope of crossing before dark. Anyway, I struggled on through and actually pink-penned my way to the end.
I have, I hope, made my characters more mindful of their present state of affairs; their internal dialogue needed to be thoughtful, less amateur dramatics with badly made costumes while throwing their arms about on a small tight stage, hoping for audience participation. This isn’t me belittling amateur dramatics for the record. I was a member of three groups in my twenties and loved every theatrical minute of those times 🎭 – playing up to audiences who came for no more than a night of fun, watching people they know deliver their old favourites. “A Handbag???” I played the part of the drunken reporter from The Yorkshire Argus in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ and I waved my arms around wildly on a small, tight stage hoping for audience participation – and got it!
Anyway, my point is, readers won’t pick up my book and say ‘oh look, it’s that nutty farmer’s wife. She’s written a novel, we’ve GOT to buy it, it’ll be sooo entertaining… darling? Darling? Where have you gone? You’ve got the purse!” (well maybe three of you might). I would like to think my potential readership will spot a book with an intriguing cover and title, a snappy blurb, a dramatic first paragraph and decide they want to know why Antonio is in one of Italy’s biggest prisons. They shouldn’t think about me when they read – I want them to disappear into the lives of Antonio, Martha and the others whose choices are dictating where the story goes.
Incorporating the pink pen edits back onto the laptop document has taken nearly a month. I nonchalantly assumed it would take a week but no-one warned me how painstaking that process is of keeping a finger on the ‘and’ you need to delete to make the sentence work, while finding which ‘and’ of the 186 on that page it is you’re trying to delete – Jesus and Mary and Joseph. And then there’s the spilling tea on the pages and hoping they’ll dry so you can still read the pink pen.
Not having a deadline (as no-one knows about this except you, MoW and me, and a handful of writerly friends) means there is no pressure. At one point when I was moving around the house like an author on a deadline with agent’s expectations hanging over me, my husband was eating crackers and cheese on his knee – no plate – and reminding me this was “meant to be fun?”. A hobby. He was right of course. All pressure I’d laid at my feet myself with that twinkle of devil suggesting I might not be able to do it. I’m permanently fighting my inner demons, wishing to prove to them that I can, but taking a few days off here and there to go watch a play in London or simply to tidy a room of clutter was all I needed to reset the default – my writing is a complete pleasure and meeting a need to be creative.
Today I have ten pages left of incorporating pink pen edits. It will have been a second read through and then I’m going to print the bugger off again (tiny font and double-sided and recycled paper) in order to check I’ve got the SAVE THE CAT 15-beats suggested within its brilliant pages … basically direction changes that link into our biological need to understand human behaviour (love all that stuff ☺️🥂).
But first, the royal we is tidying the kitchen as Mother is due at 11:30 for coffee. I’ve diabetes-friendly snacks on hand, a collection of Daily Telegraphs for dad, who won’t have stopped for days to read anything until those hours he can spend alone in his single bed in the back room while Mother languishes in her lace-covered double bed knobs and broomsticks bed at the front of the house with the bay window…..