In a single morning, no doubt rather stressful for my manuscript, my ‘Extra bits’ file has gone from two pages to ten. The first three chapters of For the Love of Gods have been conflated into one and the whole thing gets my main character from her bedroom to the wormhole quick sharp, taking in a revelation or two and some explosions along the way. We’ll see what the critters have to say about it. I think it’s better. For the moment that’s all I need.
Editing really is surgery. Cut out a bit here, stitch up a hole there. Do both at the same time. There’s a reason why it’s neverending. How many people have you seen who really should have got off the plastic surgery train a few stations back? The quest for improvement can become an obsession. Writers become like mad parents, constantly nipping and tucking their baby until it resembles a cookie cutter story, with none of the natural personality and character it was born with. It’s so hard to know when to stop. Happily, having only just begun, I know for sure that I am nowhere near having to stop.
I mentioned realising that my original chapter one belonged in the next book. It’s in the Extra bits file, waiting for its moment. Altogether I think I slashed about two and a half thousand words today. But it’s ok. I’m still breathing. Just. The manuscript looks prettier. But I have kept those two and a half thousand words. The creative arts allow us to take energy and convert it into matter. The results should not be dismissed lightly. It’s worth holding on to them for future works, even if later you only use them for inspiration rather than the exact words themselves.
It’s also good to remember what you have actually cut out. You can decide to edit an idea, only to later realise that you have also cut its essence and now you can’t remember what it was. When it’s the odd word here and there, it’s not such an issue, although even small cuts can have drastic effects. However, when you are cutting five hundred words at a time, disasters can happen. Save all the pieces. You never know when you might need them to illuminate a character or prop up someone’s motivation.
I am rapidly becoming a convert to so many things, now that I am seriously writing. I used to scoff at the very idea of an ‘Extra bits’ file. Please! I was Superwoman! Every word I have ever written floated in my head, just waiting for me to pull it out of obscurity, rather like the rabbit and the hat. Yeah, I know. I was young and stupid. Forgive me.
One more reason to have an Extra bits file. It shows me that I have really done some work. I have been ruthless and cut out a LOT of dead wood. Or rather, wood that can be better used to make something else. I can see the changes I have made without having to go by word count (which would be depressing as it’s dropped quite considerably from an hour ago). Being able to see my progress is a powerful motivator for me.
What about you? What helps keep you on track with your editing? Do you have any tips and tricks for letting your writing brain know that it really did achieve something today, even if the word count says differently?