It Was The Best Of Times…- Editing Continued
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I feel certain my editor would shudder for borrowing these famous words from Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. But it best describes the experience of editing my novel, River of the Stick Wavers. It is a scary experience to open the once clean copy of a novel that I’ve worked on for four years, to see page after page of little speech bubbles that, once clicked on, advertise the places I went wrong. Along with a separate copy of suggestions that question every aspect of my writing process. I felt undermined, inadequate as a writer, and began to wonder if I was wasting precious time working towards becoming a published writer. But I had come this far. I couldn’t give up now. Especially when I had an editor waiting for my changes.
So I read through her suggestions and put the novel aside for a few days while I thought about how I wanted to approach the editing process. Much of what she suggested made sense to me, but there was a few things that I found very difficult to do. Getting rid of entire chapters that did nothing to move the story along meant replacing them with at least fifty new pages. But that is exactly what I did.
I wrote pages of dialogue with no narration or description between to give it impact. I needed to add verisimilitude – details of place, movement, mood, colour, and smell. In doing this, I found I enjoy writing descriptive passages.
Historical information had to be correct. As a white female, I know very little about Native culture. It’s easy enough to get information on-line, but each site offers something just a little bit different. And so it was up to me to extend myself and locate a Native person who was willing to confirm information for me. Not an easy task for someone who is inherently shy and who has a hearing loss, which makes it difficult to talk on the phone.
But, the hardest thing I had to consider was to give up the beginning pages. The first pages of my novel are based on the obituary of a woman that was the inspiration for the entire book. When I read about her life, I thought, “I have got to tell this woman’s story.” I couldn’t give it up. After deliberating for months, it occurred to me that by simply making a few adjustments to bring her into the right time period, I could keep my opening pages. And so it went. I spent months, and two edits, tweaking, refining, deleting, and correcting, to make sure my novel is the best it can be.
And now it’s over, and rather than feeling elated, I feel sad. After four years of being inside the world of my characters, it is time to let them go. But through it all I have become a better writer. With each new edit, my novel was transformed. My editor was firm, but kind, in her suggestions to make my novel the best it can be. And even though it was a difficult process to accept the constructive criticism of another person, it was the best thing I ever did for myself as a writer.
Related Article – Editing So Far: Sept. 29/2014