Shelley Widhalm

The Editing Plunge

In 52: A Writer's Life, Revising, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on February 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

It is official: I’ve taken the editing plunge.

I’m not saying that I don’t like editing; it’s just that there are other things I prefer, like writing. I like editing short stories, news articles and other things I’ve written, but revising an entire novel is a bit daunting.

Like right now, I had planned to revise my novel, a 90,000-word account of a 30-something artist who loses everything in an apartment fire called “The Fire Painter,” but I figured I could do some writing first by blogging about not wanting to edit.

So far, I’ve edited 30 pages of the 296 I’ve written (the lines are at 1 ½ spaces), spreading the work over three days. When I looked at page 31 just now, it felt as if there are a million pages left to work over for the second draft.

I started editing my novel on Wednesday, Jan. 23, though I had planned to begin on Jan. 1 with the New Year. I had excuses, of course.
So, on Jan. 23, i.e. 01-23, I was nervous facing a huge revision project that can’t be finished in a few hours or days. I was already sick of chapter 1, having edited it with my writer’s group and a couple of my friends, plus I practically have it memorized. I surprised myself by enjoying reading/editing/red marking it and finding lines I hadn’t remembered writing.

I initially asked, “Is my first paragraph the best it could be?” I read it over a half-dozen times, trying to fine-tune it so that it would hook the reader with intriguing use of language and an interesting character and situation. I changed the last sentence from being about coffee (my character and I are both addicted to caffeine) to wanting to paint life beyond the clothing racks – my character works in retail, while seeking the life of the artist.

By the end of two hours editing seven pages, I felt drained and could not face looking at chapter 2. I had made several line cuts, tightened up descriptions and found some inconsistencies and word echoes.

I edited the next four chapters (I tend to write short chapters) over the next two days, spending about an hour per 10 pages.

Originally, I intended the second draft to be a read through, but it’s becoming more of a line edit where I’m trying to fix errors at the sentence level. I think I will revise for overall structure during the third draft. So much for following my own editing guidelines.
But at least I’ve taken the plunge.

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  1. Congratulations on taking the plunge! Can’t wait to read the finished product. I’m proud of ya, kid!

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