What I’ve Learned From Editing For (Almost) Three Months

Back in January, I talked about an ambitious writing goal I had this year. I said that I wanted to finish not one, but two drafts of the next two books in the series I’m working on.

Let me pause for a minute while I go laugh at my foolishness.

Okay, I’m back. The reason I’m laughing is I am still working on editing the draft of the first book in the series. I’ve had to make so many changes that I’m reluctant to start on a draft of the second book in case my changes impact anything major in the next book(s) in the series. I have some brainstorming notes for the second book, but that’s about it.

The good thing about writing is the more I do it, the more I learn about the process. Here’s a short list of things I’ve learned as I’ve edited for these past few months.

  • Editing takes a lot more time than you expect. A lot. Right now, I’m the slowest editor ever, so I can’t get very much done very quickly. Plus, I need to be at my personal laptop to edit. This is a big change from my writing, which I can basically do anywhere. I often write (by hand!) during my lunch break. This doesn’t work for editing, so I’ve only been editing at home.
  • I wish I’d fleshed out the plot a bit more in my outline when I was preparing to write the novel. I did a ton of prep that I didn’t end up using in this book (I trashed all the chapter epigraphs on my first round of edits), but I will use it in future books. I wish I’d outlined the chapters and plot and scenes and all that good stuff in a lot more detail.
  • Sometimes, you just need a break from editing. I got really sick of editing in May, when I was working on inserting a massive subplot that I felt the story needed. I was so unmotivated that eventually I took a break to write a short story. As it turned out, the story wasn’t so short after all (it came in at over 10,000 words), but it was a much-needed break from the editing. I returned to my rough draft feeling a lot better about the process.
  • Continuing the prior point, I can only do so much editing at once. Even when I did this amount, I still had energy left for writing, so started on another book! I outlined this book (in more detail than I usually do, which I hope is a good thing) and it was calling to me, so I started it. I had a bit of a false start—I was writing in third person and it just wasn’t working until I realized it needs to be in first person—but it’s been going pretty well ever since I made that adjustment.
  • I finally, at long last, understand the plight of writers who have big word counts they need to cut down. I’ve seen a lot of advice over the years about trimming your word count, but I’ve never had to do this because I just don’t write that much. Until this edit, that is. My word count is at about 112,000 right now and it’s only going to grow because I have plans of more stuff I want to add. I’ll look on the bright side and hope my plot is getting more layered and rich as I add some subplots.

I guess this means I ought to revise my goal of finishing two more rough drafts. I think I’ll have to amend that to a finished, fully edited draft of this first book in the series. Because if I try to write the second book in this series, I think I’ll go crazy, and I don’t think a crazy author is a good thing. (Or maybe it is, if it means I come up with some outrageous ideas!)