Adventures in Editing

Most of my blog’s regular readers fall into two categories. Many are writers who have “been there, done that” when it comes to editing a book. Others are friends and family who are probably as interested in the editing process as I am in best practices in proctology.

In other words, apologies if this post bores you. Bookmark it and come back when you need a cure for insomnia.

I am knee-deep in editing “Wolfman’s Pier,” the working title for what I’ve until now called “Manwhore.” Explaining the transition would give away too much, so I won’t. Although I’ve got miles to go before I finish, I’ve already learned a lot about the editing process and my own writing style.

1.  I am still in love with my characters and storyline. The book moves at a brisk pace, with the right blend of humor, surprising turns of events, and relationship building.

2. Back in college, I remember a lit professor (who resembled the weird old man who keeps all the scary secrets from hapless victims in any number of horror movies) telling me I wrote like a “Hunter S. Thompson wannabe hack.” Meanwhile, my journalism and creative writing profs were praising my writing and saying I had a promising career ahead of me.

After a few semesters of  being swatted like a ping-pong ball between “you rock” and “you suck,” I came to a realization. I am NOT a literary writer. I am a journalistic storyteller. I prefer vivid scenes to metaphor, and gripping dialogue and events to allusions and theory. I can’t write a page comparing a tree bending in the breeze to being resiliant through life’s hard knocks without snoring. I’d rather say the same thing with a ghost who breaks down because women can no longer see his tallywacker.

I’ll never be published in a literary journal or please readers who prefer that writing style. I tell a different kind of story for a different audience. But I still must be careful not to overexaggerate and rely on hype in my writing. I’m not a hack, but I can go down that road if left unchecked.  A lot of my editing has been toning things down “just enough.”

3. I have been taking my imaginary machete to “lys.” She moved quietLY. He said gentLY. She ate piggishLY. OK, no one in my book eats piggishly, but you get the picture. Overall, I was good about “showing not telling.” But often I fell into the trap of letting a LY  drive home a point. An occasional LY is OK, but when they crop up like mosquitos on a humid summer night, they gotta go.

4. Dealing with backstory bites. The line between not enough and too much feels almost invisible. This has been the toughest parts of my editing process. But I’m plowing through it.

5. My favorite part of editing has been coming up with subtitles for each mini-chapter. While not necessary, I think they add flair and fun to the book. As I edit each segment, I keep the need for a perfect header in the back of my mind. This hunt for a phrase that captures the essence of the segment helps me analyze the chapter’s flow.

I’d love to hear about the editing experience of others who care to share!

About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Creativity, Fiction, The Naked Man-Whore Chronicles, Writing, Writing A Novel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Adventures in Editing

  1. l'empress says:

    “I’ll tone down my adverbs,” said the editor cuttingly. We used to call those Tom Swifties; does anybody remember those?

  2. I’m just now struggling with how much back story is enough. It IS tough. Especially at the beginning of my novel, I don’t want to trick the readers into thinking this minor stuff is major, but the minor stuff is necessary to set up for the major stuff coming up.

    There are so many elements to editing–macro and micro. I often get stuck in the micro (this word or that? should I change the name of that character? sentence structure) because the macro seems so confounding. POV, plot, sub-plot, etc. AARG!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      You are so right – editing is a BIG beast. Since one of my main character’s is kinda … dead, some backstory is important in showing what he was like in life. And a lot of the female main character’s actions are colored by her past experiences. So finding just the right amount of “flashback” has been tricky, but kind of fun, too.

  3. Amy Isaman says:

    Congratulations on finishing and good luck with the editing – its nice to know there’s someone on the other side of the country plugging away doing the same thing! For me, this is the hard part – writing the story was much easier (though I’m not sure the word “easy” applies to that either). As for chapter titles, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rick Riordan (YA author of all the Percy Jackson books and many more) but he’s a chapter title wizard! You can look at some of his Table of Contents by looking inside a book at Amazon. I think you’d like them.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Amy! I’m not familiar with Rick Riordan but I definitely will check him out! For me, writing the story was easier too. It doesn’t surprise me – that’s the part that kind of spills out. My writing process was very “free spirited” because i knew the fine-tuning and chopping would come later. I’m enjoying editing a lot more than I thought I would, though. Revisiting the story with a critical eye and fine-tooth comb has actually been fun. I hope you’re having a similar experience in spite of the challenges!

  4. Shelly says:

    It all takes time to chop and replant.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. Congratulations on getting it done! Most people who start off writing a book never finish. One thing I did that helped me a lot is I had a friend read my novel aloud. If you know someone with a good reading voice that’s willing to do it, (you may have to buy them a couple of dinners) give it a try. Good Luck!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks for the suggestion Diana! I definitely do have friends who fit that bill … and I think they’d do it for beer (which also might help them get into the spirit of my main character) : ).

  6. Catie Rhodes says:

    Good for you on getting it done! The best advice I can give you is to make sure every scene in the novel tells the story you want to tell. At my editor’s encouragement, I cut 30K words out of FOREVER ROAD. It was stuff that moved the plot forward but was not necessary to tell the story. I found it improved the pacing a great deal.

    As for the backstory, a lot of the 30K I cut was backstory. What I learned is sort of hard to articulate, so, if it doesn’t make sense but you want me to try harder, let me know. Basically, on the backstory, it needs to go bye-bye if you don’t need it to tell the story. And you dish it out in tiny scoops–I think of the way I buy a big bar of Godiva chocolate and eat only one square each day. Also, make sure the backstory occurs at a time it would be logical for a character to think about it and does not go on for more than a sentence or two–because lengthy backstory can slow down the pace.

    Anyway…good luck!

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