Edit or Dread It?

Some writers really hate the edit and polish stage. They prefer to drift across the ocean of pure composition, lulled along by the gentle word-waves. Editing for them seems like running aground on a desert island, realising all that lovely floating led you to a place where you’ve got shit to do. A lot of it.

Before I wrote this novel, I really liked editing. Because for me that was the stage stories coalesced. I figure my process is sort of like a sculptor’s. I put a big hunk of stuff in front of me, then I slice and scrape and shape something with a more agreeable form. This is all well and good for short stories, but the novel’s length and scope can leave you with a gargantuan hunk of misshapen story-clay.

Okay, enough with the extended metaphors. One for each paragraph, sheesh. No wonder this novel needs so much whittling down (argh, another one!).

But I seriously have a lot of shit to do. The first bit of the novel was written in the first person, but that wasn’t working, so I shifted to third person. I didn’t go back and do it at the time because I believe in just ploughing on, getting the momentum going. It can all be fixed later. Later has arrived! This means that my first task will be to rewrite all those 1st person sections. That also means not being so much in the main character’s head. A shame, but also good to help develop ambiguity and nuance.

The other major bit of work I’ve got ahead of me is the changes to the world that happened as I was writing. This novel began as a “fix-up” of an old story of mine. Actually, the first one I ever sold, “Painting with Ichor.” I was going to continue on from the end of that story, but I realised the elements that interested me weren’t what might have happened after, but what could have happened during, if the events of the story were stretched out over a longer time period. This then grew further still, and it became less and less like the original story. But the start of the book still has the atmosphere from the short. So that needs to be addressed. It was also very  firmly in the fantasy genre. Very low, dirty fantasy, but fantasy nonetheless. The novel has turned into something else, not quite science fantasy, but definitely riding the boundaries between sf and fantasy. I like that it is kind of interstitial. I wonder whether I should commit to a categorisation though? At least lean more to one side? The world itself is influenced by this decision. There are some things that I want to explain, others that I want to keep mysterious. So, the tension between explanatory sf and mysterious fantasy keeps pulling me this way and that. I guess it’s a matter of what works for realising the story in the world.

I also need to reorganise a few scenes, for the most part turning them into flashbacks. That will probably be the easiest bit.

I’m not a Dread It kinda guy, I find editing fun. But that was when I wrote short stories. A novel humbles you in a lot of ways, but especially if you’re someone who powers through the first draft without looking back, then looks back to rejig things only to realise it’s going to be more work than the word “rejig” can possibly suggest.

I’ve got weeks worth of fun ahead of me.

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