By Martha Reed
February was a very productive month. I kept to the editing schedule for my new manuscript religiously. For any writer out there hesitating on the fence, I can’t say enough good things about my experience of hiring a freelance editor to review my first draft; it really helped me shape my revision. Having the Pennwriters conference to look forward to in May helped provide a deadline, too. But what I really wanted to cover today is the rush I got when I started editing with a mission and cutting my draft to the bone.
I usually have a pretty good idea of the plot that I want to cover and an estimated length when I start a new novel. Historically, with my first draft I clock in at about 125,000 words and 30 chapters. This book was different; I blew right past that word count and hit 425 pages before all was said and done.
The new length didn’t worry me for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m using an ensemble cast and I expected to explore some distant regions before I tightened it up and brought it home in the editing cycle, and 2) that’s where the story wanted to go. What is surprising is how almost effortless the trimming process was now that I have the whole thing in my hands and I can go back to the beginning to edit things down. I’m feeling a freedom with editing that I know I didn’t feel in draft mode. When I open a chapter now I almost distill the rewrite; it’s that much clearer. Last weekend I enjoyed it so much I finally had to force myself to put it down on Sunday at 9PM because my wrists were sore from typing.
An ironic and wonderful thing came out of this rewrite, too. Smack in the middle of my work was a chapter that introduced an adolescent girl named Hailey. I can clearly remember working on this chapter and I know when I drafted it the material flowed effortlessly. Now imagine my feelings when I read the chapter in rewrite mode and realized Hailey had to go. She had to get axed. As great as she was, she didn’t fit in this book. So I hardened my heart to select and delete when a revelation came over me and I realized that she is not only in my next book, she IS my next book.
Now I have to finish this one, to get to that. Anticipation is a simply great feeling!