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.

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

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