A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I can’t count how many times Glimpse has been edited. I rewrote and tweaked it for two and a half years before sending it to agents, and right now it’s very near the end of being edited officially. Having spent so long editing, both on my own and with an editor, I’ve learned such a lot.
Here are the discoveries I made while editing Glimpse. Whether you’re self-editing or working with an editor, I hope you’ll find them useful too!
Despite the time I spent self-editing Glimpse, I never put it through any really big, full manuscript rewrites in terms of plot or character. I changed the beginning a lot, and rewrote chapters here and there, but the basic story may as well have been carved in stone. This would have been fine had my plot been perfect, but it wasn’t, and I knew it.
So why didn’t I think up a new plot and rewrite? Because it’s scary! Writing a new draft takes time and a ton of hard work. It’s much easier to fiddle with chapters here and there, hoping it’ll fix a manuscript-wide problem. But sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and accept that big rewrites are what your manuscript needs. When I edited Glimpse ‘officially’ this summer, the second half of the plot was completely revamped, and it’s so much better for it.
There’s only so far you can edit on your own; even authors like Stephen King and Margaret Atwood need editors. When you spend a long time on the same manuscript, it’s easy to lose sight of the wood for the trees. Get input from people who’ll give you unbiased feedback, whether that’s a particularly honest friend, a critique partner, or (if you have one) your agent or editor. If you’re planning big re-writes, bounce your ideas off them first to make sure your hard work’s going to take you in the right direction. (Feedback helps a lot with big-rewrite-phobia.)
Even if you’re a complete pantster and didn’t plan a single scene of your first draft, editing is more analytical and a bit of planning can really help.
When I got my editorial letter this summer, I took brief notes on what I needed to edit, putting changes under sub-headings like ‘World-building’, ‘Plot’, and character names. I then re-plotted Glimpse in a two-column table. In the left column I wrote the contents of each chapter, making sure I’d ticked off everything I needed to edit in terms of plot and world-building. In the right column, I wrote the significance of each chapter for each character. I could then easily check that each chapter had a purpose in terms of character development, that each character had a well-developed arc, and I could refer back to it while writing to make sure I was focusing on the right things. It looked something like this:
I found this so very useful, and I’ll definitely be doing it again with the next story I write.
I normally write at a leisurely pace, but writing to deadline this summer I really had to pick up my speed. Having never written a draft in less than six months before, I now had to write one in two, and not only that but produce something close to publishable. Eek! While it was hard work, I discovered that writing so intensively, immersing myself in the story day after day without letting myself slack, helped so much in terms of maintaining flow and voice.
Edits can be daunting, especially if they’re big or you have a deadline. But sometimes, when the pressure’s on, that’s when the magic happens.
Kendra is a YA author and chocolatier. Glimpse, her debut novel, was inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem ‘The Highwayman’. It will be published in June 2014 by Much-in-Little.