By Martha Reed
Because editing a full manuscript is still new to me, I’m going to continue to chronicle my further adventures with it as I explore this brave new world.
I want to do this for those writers who may be following a bit behind me in the process because I have learned that the further I go into this new editing world, the further I explore what going to this new depth means to me, the more amazing the writing becomes. Editing is forcing me to both step back and take a good hard look at what I’ve already written while forcing me to focus in closer on it (if that’s not a contradiction).
Let me give you a for instance.
In the early chapters I seem to be trimming out a lot of unnecessary back story that I needed to write down in my newbie manuscript just so I could figure out where my characters were and what they were doing. Now that I know the ending, I can go back to these early pages and a) eliminate the back story but also b) take a moment to reexamine what is happening at that moment in the storyline to see if it still holds up.
My Ah-ha! Moment happened on Saturday when I took another look at a character who was making a phone call and realized that in my earliest version I had him calling the wrong person. Now that I know ‘who done it’ I realized that he wouldn’t have called him, he would have called her. That realization upset the whole applecart until I revised it in the mss and then realized the full implications of that call. If he called her, it changed the lines of communication and tightened up an entire sub-plot in one fell swoop. Editing at its best!
Of course, the hardest part is to have to ‘kill your darlings’. Last weekend I had to delete one entire unnecessary character since she was occupying a page and a half of text the story didn’t really need. (Sorry, Elsbeth! I promise to use you somewhere else in another story soon!) The scary part is hitting a chapter that basically just needs to be overhauled in its entirety but the upside is that I can already see how the revision will improve the overall story and baby, that’s just the way it’s got to be.