Thoughts on Editing, aka Tackling that Thesis

8 Jan

A good friend of mine is applying to grad school and sent me the first few chapters of a novel that she’s sending in with her application. She’s been working on the novel for some time, and I’ve read one or two other versions of these chapters before.

All I can say is, she’s done some amazing editing. Which I hope no one takes to mean it wasn’t good before, because it was quite well written as well as enjoyable to read before these edits. But these edits made it read like a real book. Explanations in all the right places without any info dumps. Characters’ personalities shining through quirky little actions. Flowing action description, which I always find difficult to manage.

After I sent her my marked-up copy, sparse comments and all, I decided to look at my thesis-novel again. It’s been ten years since I started thesis-novel, if you want to get technical — about eight since I started to write it like I was serious, only three since I completed a draft, and about seven months since I finished a draft I was actually happy with. I’ve sent it off to agents and publishers, put it up on FictionPress awaiting any commentary it might garner. After seven months of reflection and a couple of well-thought-out opinions to take into consideration, I have come to the following conclusions:

1. I despise my title and require a new one, but for now it’s going back to its original: Hidden Magic.

2. Main character isn’t likable to a lot of people, so I’m going to try to put her a bit further into her development right at the start in hopes that this makes her more likable. Will require changes to her reactions in certain situations. Also, sword lessons. I’ve actually written a scene where she’s given a choice, and her decision will affect the second half of the book not only in plot but in the development of her character, which I hope will lead to her being better received by readers.

3. More plot sooner; less plot. One of the major issues in my novel is that I was scrabbling to add in something big and exciting at the end, and I’m not sure how well it worked. Recently I reevaluated, and decided that the main problem is the struggle between two families and their need for cooperation. So: why do they need to cooperate? Answer: …this is why I need to edit my novel.

Why does there need to be a big ol’ battle at the end, anyway? There doesn’t, really. I turned a character evil for no real purpose other than being able to have a fight, and I think it shows that it was sort of thrown in there in hopes it might be interesting. More to the point, I don’t get around to the plot until halfway through the book. I’ve started a rewritten chapter one which will introduce “the ghost woman” in the first sentence, and then hopefully ease into the setting a bit more. My plan is to get rid of that awkward info dump in the middle of chapter one and spread it out a bit more–if I decide that half of it is necessary, anyway. I really loved the way that my explained some of the history of her world in her story, and while I wouldn’t take that idea, I DO want to try to emulate the succinct style.

I’ve also completely rewritten the prologue, hopefully to the same end. I was getting comments about not knowing what the plot was, and while I do favor character over plot, plot’s kind of important, too.

4: Uniting against a common enemy, the solution to the problem. I will be tweaking the enemies a bit. First, I will make them appear even more sinister from the start, with the eventual realization that they aren’t quite as evil as first assumed. And I’m not going to have that other evil thing at all.

And those are my current editing thoughts. I’m sure I’ll have more as time goes on, but that’s enough to be getting on with. I’m going to try to keep myself honest and do a bit of editing each day. (We’ll see how that goes.)

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