Some writers loathe it, others view it as a necessary evil but would prefer somebody else to do it, others – like me – positively look forward to it. Editing.
Actually, perhaps editing is the wrong word. I do editing all the time – yesterday’s work always comes in for a stiff combing-through before I get on with today’s effort – but perhaps what I’m really talking about is second-drafting. I’m with Stephen King on this – your first draft is where you work out what your book is really about (as opposed to what happens) and your second draft is where you make sure that you’ve done all you can so that the reader is also aware that your book is about more than simply the storyline.
But Stephen King plans his books better than I plan mine. I’m also discovering not only what my story is about but who the characters are, how they interact with events and how they feel about each other. And a whole load of tweaking, rewriting, enhancing and chopping is going to have to go on in the second draft to bring some of that to the forefront because, as so often happens, the way they feel about each other turns out to be what drives the narrative.
One of the reasons I’m looking forward to second drafting at the moment is because finishing the first draft is such hard work. I’m at the stage of the novel where the final 20% usually almost writes itself but the work-in-progress is refusing to do that. It’s sitting back with its arms crossed going ‘No, you do it. This was your idea.’
I’ve just come to the end of a long set-piece which I had known was going to be there for some time now. It was hard to write because it involved following my characters through a particularly action-packed and significant day and my writing tends to focus more on particular key episodes and conversations here and there, rather than – for me – such a relatively long time-frame.
The struggle to get it done in a way I’m happy with has put back my self-imposed schedule. I had hoped to have the first draft finished by Easter. That’s tomorrow. So the new deadline is the end of May, when the Other Half and I are planning to go away for a week. It would be good to go on holiday knowing that I wasn’t leaving my characters at a crucial point; not having to spend the week with a nagging worry at the back of my mind as to whether I was going to be able to pick up the psychological thread exactly where I had dropped it.
However, I’m hoping that I can gather enough speed and momentum as the days lengthen and my energy levels increase to finish the second draft by my original target date of September, so I’ve got something I’m happy to show Will, my editor.
At the moment, though, that seems a long way off.