The Editing Hat

I’ve started editing my novel. That’s why I’m writing a blog post right now.

One does not don the editing hat gleefully

One does not don the editing hat with glee [1]

However, rather than allow this post to become one of my infamous meditations on procrastination – a sure sign that I’m supposed to be working on something with a deadline – I’ll try to stick to the topic in the title.

I finished writing the first draft of A Flash of Black Wings with an absurd last-minute flourish on the 31st of December last year. (Go on, see if you can guess my self-imposed deadline). I promptly put it away to “give myself some distance from the piece” and “work on other projects.”

Eight months is probably enough distance by any sensible measure, so this week I dug out the manuscript to start editing it.

I am not a natural editor. I’ve been assured by a number of peers that such creatures exist. One writer, whose sanity I had not previously been given cause to question, told me that she cannot wait to finish getting through the draft so she can get to the editing phase, which she improbably defines as “the fun part”. This alien attitude instills disbelief and terror in me, as with all right-thinking people.

Still, the evidence suggesting my first drafts are not, in fact, shining golden pomegranates of stellar literary merit is beginning to look incontrovertible. A bit of nip and tuck and the odd spot of polishing couldn’t hurt, right? Give it a quick run-through to clear out the adverbs and make sure I haven’t changed any characters’ names halfway through.

(Spoiler: I did that to at least two characters)

So I’ve started a reread, taking notes as I go. To give me-last-year some credit, the first few chapters hang together well – bright character moments, some cool action and a decent plot setup. They do the important work of not making me weep with shame and regret, at the very least.

The feeling doesn’t last long. I get partway into the fifth chapter when I start to detect the scorched oil scent of gears grinding. That’s where the phantom subplot first shows its face. Where it starts hinting at the lumbering chaos it will inflict on the later chapters. I remember where it’s going. I remember how it drags my central conflict into a dark alley where it beats it into thematic incoherence, breaking several characters along the way.

Now I know I’m in a fight.

Time to roll up my sleeves, spit on my hands and start splashing some red ink on this MS. Five chapters down. Twelve to go.

[1] Consumer warning: Stock picture does not resemble author [2]
[2] Stock picture’s faint air of grudging resentment resembles author.


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4 Responses to The Editing Hat

  1. Rob Porteous says:

    One does not simply don the hat to be an editor!

  2. Lexifab says:

    Are you saying I should not have bought this hat? Because the guy at the hat shop was pretty clear about my needing a hat for editing.

    Admittedly the guy at the editing shop took a different line, but then he went on and on about dangling participles and I left.

  3. Darren says:

    From what I know, key skill is to apply arse to seat rather than hat to head. I am about to find out if I am an editor too. And I’ve got witnesses. GBTFLOU

  4. Lexifab says:

    I look forward to being your guinea pig for this Grand Experiment, Darren. Your non-millinerian approach to editing is as intriguing as it is weird and scary 🙂

    (Also I had to look that acronym up. I am glad I did.)

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