Delete Your Darlings

Be careful my friend.

This past Saturday night I sat down to check another chapter revision off my list. I even had my good friend Ben studying next to me for accountability. All told this would be a great night of writing. The stars were aligned. It was then I was struck with a grand plan. I was going to insert a new chapter. I could not believe I did not think of the idea sooner.

After struggling for an hour and a half and moving on to try and rewrite another chapter, I deleted everything I just created. That rabbit trail ended with — a dead rabbit.

Now, this could be considered time wasted. Would I like to have that hour and a half back to work on my simple plan of editing a chapter? Sure.

I do not believe this writing time was wasted. I just found two ways not to write my book. Writing is a maze. Some days the work is easy, other days let’s just say you end that writing time looking forward to making it up to your novel later.

Keep Writing. Be honest about your work. If you think a portion of your book doesn’t fit quite right, don’t just let it be. Sharpen your sword, grab a dozen red pens, and have at it. Blaze a new trail and don’t give up fighting (editing) your way through your book.

Writer 500 words today!



Tips for Editing Your Fiction Novel

Editing can be an intimidating process. After months or years of slaving over your novel, going back through it again (at least for me) can be debilitating. I think the hardest part of writing is that you learn so much through the process of a draft that by the time you are done and go back to view the beginning, it can be unsatisfying. Not because the novel was unfinished, but because I’ve come to realize it is only a small percentage of the work that lay ahead in the wild dream of publication.

So here I am carefully editing like one would analyze a game of Jenga. There are parts that are poor and plot points that need to be removed. The key is knowing which ones to remove. If I kill one which zigzags through my story like a stray bottle rocket, I lose the continuity of the others. And if these unnecessary plot points are not cleanly removed, they will sit like a resplendent spiral staircase to nowhere. Oh the joy!

To get through this editing crucible I’ve developed a plan. Though it has been a slower process than I expected, I am gaining traction. 402px-Jenga_distorted I hope these tips will assist in editing more efficiently to help you get through the rewriting blues.

  1. Write a list of your plot points. Find out which ones are maintained through the book and which ones you no longer need and cut them out. If needed, sprinkle them in so they stay fresh in the readers mind.
  2. Look at each chapter and make sure it is necessary.  A beautiful snowy vale or slow walk on the beach has to mean something, it cannot a spectacularly scene of literary drivel and not advance the plot.
  3. If you have not already done so make a list of characters and be sure they behave how you intended them to behave. Keep them in character. Don’t have the villain help someone up or notice a sunset, unless that fits, etc.

Now, you have three large chunks evaluated: Plot, Chapters, Characters. So,

  1. Review each paragraph. Make sure they can be understood by themselves. Especially watch the pronouns in scenes where multiple characters appear.
  2. Examine your work for repetitive phrases. See if you have said “Oh my!” a hundred times. Or perhaps you use Verily, or the same descriptions, rewrite or cut them out.
  3. Grammar. I left this for last – intentionally. If I focus on this as I edit I loose… well – focus. I’m not an accomplished multi-tasker. It is best for me to print off my chapters, double spaced, and find a quiet place to read them aloud. I take my time to try and catch any and every mistake. Also, if it is helpful, keep a grammar book nearby. The book will help with coma usage, which or that, and other common misuses.

Lastly, don’t worry about font or page numbers. Most of the technical things are left to the publisher’s discretion. Also, you’ll just end up reformatting anyway because each agent/publisher/acquisitions editor will have their own submissions process and guidelines.

Keep Writing.