Editing Blues

Rabbit - sitThere’s no point in dancing around it – editing is hard work.  And if right now you’re wondering what I’m talking about – if you’re thinking I’m mad and are telling me through your computer screen that editing can be fun – then either you’re in an earlier stage of ‘fun-fiddly’ editing than I’m talking about, you have selective amnesia or you’re a robot.  Take your pick.

The editing I’m talking about is gritty, finger skinning, brain twisting, eye gouging, painfully hard work.  The editing I’m talking about is the part of the writing journey that will test your commitment to the process.  It will make you question why on earth you want to be a writer (and conveniently forget the joy of new ideas and characters that consume you and and all those lovely butterfly things).  This editing will make you question whether you have it in you.  It will push your brain out your ears.  BUT: I guarantee you that every writer, be they new or experienced, has felt this way.  And probably has experienced all these doubts at some point during each and every book they’ve written.

Based on the above rant, you may well have guessed that I’m going through a tough round of edits.  A few weeks ago I received Kate’s assessment on the latest draft of my mentorship novel, and she bravely, patiently and honestly guided me through how to take my novel into its third draft.  My reaction has nothing to do with Kate or the way she approached it – she has been an absolute dream to work with.  She even invited me to bang my head against a wall, saying this is how she often feels at this point in the editing process.  It’s always nice to know you’re not alone.

Luckily I’m sitting on the cusp of the ‘hard work’ mountain.  After some serious time spent world building, pushing all my major and minor characters further, significant reorganising of the plot points, and detailed (scene by scene) analysis of pacing, I’m almost ready to start the rewrite.  For me, this means I’ve just reached the editing summit and am about to start gloriously frolicking down the other side.  The lure of the writing has been the light at the end of my ‘plotting’ tunnel, and it will be so much easier due to the tooth pulling work I’ve just done.

There’s a great guest post over on Rachelle Gardner’s blog talking about this exact process.  It’s called ‘The Hell Formerly Known as Editing’, and Terry Brennan discusses the editorial process he went through after selling his first book.  He’s refreshingly open about just how tough it’s been.  It’s certainly not for the faint hearted, but we all need a little brutal honesty every now and then.

I know most of the time I need to believe that writing is wonderful and exhilarating and a constant source of joy, but if you’re serious about this (and are aiming for publication), this also needs to be balanced by the knowledge that some bits of writing are just plain hard work.  So, protective gloves on, helmet buckled tightly, safety goggles in place, and back into the fray!

15 Responses to “Editing Blues”

  1. 1 Sheryl Gwyther March 19, 2009 at 8:19 am

    And you WILL get there in the end, Kath, because you’re a writer.
    Now, here’s another type of writer/editor to add to your ‘selective amnesia’ or ‘robot’ – the ‘scab picker’.
    These are the type of writers who do enjoy this intense stage of editing, hair-shirt and all – focussing, filtering, picking, scratching, thought flicking, won’t let go until it’s done and the eyeballs are falling out and the creative brain is squeezed dry like an empty sponge.
    Recognise anyone? :)

  2. 2 Katherine Battersby March 19, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Thanks Sheryl! I certainly enjoy parts of editing, but always feel quite overwhelmed by the ‘complete restructuring of the story/characters/plot’ kind of editing. And yes, I think I might just know one of these ‘scab pickers’ of which you speak…

  3. 3 Chris March 19, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Editing blues makes it sound almost jovial. It brings to mind playing 12 bar blues about a car breaking down or a girlfriend leaving for me. The reality is much worse.

    I spent 18 months editing my first album. A year and a half. Mixing. Remixing. Remixing again. Rerecording, touching up, filtering, using effects, cutting, pasting, time-shifting. Remixing. Remixing again. Having to start again and remix from scratch. Having to cut out 1/3rd of a song because the drums were irreparably out of time and everything else was too. Rebuilding the drums from scratch using digital drums and re-recording the bass and guitars over it myself. For. 18. Months.

    It ended up killing the band, we never played again.

  4. 4 Katherine Battersby March 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Trust the musician to comment on my blues reference!

    Chris, your editing experience sounds just awful. I hope you’ve been through other more positive projects. That’s a painfully long time to work on one album.

    I’m sure certain books have broken authors in the same way. I wrote the book I’m currently working on through the mentorship at the end of 2007, and this is the third complete re-write I’m doing, with another draft to go. Then if I ever find a publisher they’re likely to take me through the same number of re-writes again. Sometimes I’m not sure how people do it, but ‘one step at a time’ has become my mantra!

  5. 5 swatch March 20, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Ai! – a heartfelt rant – this writing sounds tough.
    I will read my next book with greater respect for what it has taken.
    Your rabbit-picture says it well
    All the best with the rest of your process


  6. 6 Sandy March 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    There’s a lot about editng I actually like but I hate how it’s never done. Every time I look there’s just one more thing… A friend of mine – who doesn’t write – said to me ‘I know why you’re writing. Because it’s much easier than computer programming (my day job).’ Foolish man. A computer program – no matter how tricky – is done when it works. A piece of writing is never done, it just edits… and re-edits… and re-edits…

  7. 7 Chris March 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    In the end it was the biggest project I’d ever worked on and I was happy with it. Mostly. Still, when I listen to it I can hear what it could have been. But that’s neither here nor there. It was a learning experience, and there’s a lot of value in knowing what -not- to do. It was the first project that I’d hired a producer and a sound engineer instead of just doing it all myself. I haven’t done anything since, but come the 4th of April it’s EP time .. we’ll see what happens.

    I can’t imagine a complete rewrite :S That must be unbelievable. I don’t know how I’d deal with having to scrap a recording and go from the start again.

  8. 8 Cindy Wilson March 21, 2009 at 2:02 am

    For the record, I think parts of editing are fun. But by the time I’ve read the story through for about the fourth of fifth time, the word “fun” doesn’t pop in my vocabulary very often. You’re right, editing is hard. It’s harder, I think, because we’re the ones who wrote the book. We’re so close to it, we can’t always think objectively. But hey, it’s a part of the book writing process. And if everything was fun and easy, we’d never grow. Thanks for the post!

  9. 9 T. Anne March 21, 2009 at 5:30 am

    I’m in the process of heavy editing right now. I made a copy of the original so if I don’t like it I can go back and rework it closer to the original translation. It’s difficult but you want to ultimately produce a novel you will be proud to have published. Good luck to you!

  10. 10 Katherine Battersby March 21, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Thanks all for your encouragement. It’s all feeling a bit easier today. I’m starting to enjoy the process now – it always takes a little while.

    T.Anne, I’m a bit obsessive about keeping different versions of each draft. I usually end up with about eight to ten different copies, all numbered as to which version of which draft they are. Each draft changes so much, the first no longer even minutely resembles the final one!

    Sandy – I always cringe when people say that to writers! I’ll never deny that writing is fun and a dream job, but it’s also a lot of hard work and commitment. The grass is always greener, hey?

  11. 11 Fabio March 21, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    hello. fabio here. most beautiful man. cosmos. black holes. that stuff. fabio wonders if he would look very nice in helmet and goggles. maybe fabio will avoid this editing that you speak of, nice little rabbit. goodbye.

  12. 12 Katherine Battersby March 22, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Yes, Fabio, maybe you should stick to doing your romance novel covers, instead of trying to write them.

  13. 13 Madeline Stephenson March 25, 2009 at 8:48 am

    “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”-Oscar Wilde

    This is one of my favorite quotes. It does apply more to poetry writing, of course, but I think it still says a lot about any kind of editing.

    Another quote to think about in your editing process: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” -Michelangelo

  14. 14 Katherine Battersby March 26, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I have added both those quotes to my list. The Oscar Wilde one brilliantly describes my Tuesday evening, where I was working on a query letter. Especially in short pieces of writing, every individual word, comma and full stop becomes so important!

  1. 1 The Wall « the Well Read Rabbit Trackback on April 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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