Thursday, 5 April 2007

Tightening the Thumbscrew: the stages of editing

I'm getting near the second longhaul through my children's novel, trying desperately to get the wordcount down to under 60,000 so it looks to my agent as if I'm doing what she wanted. I have to admit, grudgingly, that she's done me a favour. I can see the longeurs and I can see that what I've taken out so far has increased the pace. It's getting beyond painful now, though, partly because I'm sick of the sight of the thing and want to be writing Book Two - which is still in that wonderful not-written-yet-therefore-all things-are-possible state which is the honeymoon period of creativity. Also, because I've reached the desperate stage of removing a word here, five words there and totting the deducted wordcounts at the end of every chapter in the forlorn hope that a few ones and fives will miraculously come to two thousand ...

It has to be faced: I'm fast approaching Third Stage Edit. First Stage is Blithe Willingness: you go back to your book full of the optimistic sureness that you can wave a magic wand and ten thousand words will vanish. And you won't feel any regret. Second Stage is Increasingly Desperate: you realise the little devils won't pack their bags and leave your book without a fight. Plus you really really don't want them to go. You invited them, for Godsake. They've got squatter's rights.

Third Stage is Grit Your Teeth and Reconstruct. You've evicted the squatters but things still aren't right. Nipping and Tucking won't do. You're going to have to take out whole chapters and rebuild sections of your construct from the ground up. Fun it's not. And that's the stage I'm on the brink of. God help me.

Sorry for the overuse of metaphors in this post. But hey, that's the way my mind works. Plus, I want just to write and post my idle thoughts - the time to worry will be when I spend too much time polishing and editing entries for this blog.

You mean I don't do that already?

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