Edit, Revise, Rewrite

Any writer who takes their craft seriously will have edited their work many times over. I can pretty much guarantee that any bestselling novel or literary classic you take off the shelf is not in its first draft. Novels go through several drafts before they are published. It can be said of any form of creative writing too, really.  It can even feel at times while you write that you are editing too, and the editing takes over the writing process. Some say to not edit at all with the first draft, to just write it and get it done. Also, others will say that you eventually have to stop editing and move on, otherwise you never will. Both of those sentiments make total sense, but editing is still a vital stage of the writing process.

Perhaps you remember from writing school papers the concept of rough drafts and final copies. Editing enables you to polish a rough draft so that you have a final copy. It is the same with novels. So what chance does a work have without being edited, or without at least one other pair of eyes not your own offering critical feedback? Taking feedback is never easy, but it should be constructive, so you can see it as a way to ask yourself what can be done better.

Going beyond grammar and spelling, the book itself goes through many drafts. Plot points are altered. New ones come in. Old ones are eliminated. It’s same with characters, names, and the elements and rules of world-building. Plot holes are identified, along with anything that does not fit. The problem is tackled, usually more than once. It might be necessary to start over from scratch, using the old draft for reference. Format can change too: chapter titles come and go, length can be altered, and the format of chapter numbers (word numbers, Roman numerals, number numbers) can change.

With Mystical Greenwood, I’ve learned the power and importance of editing. It’s always beneficial to have another pair of eyes look at what you wrote, so you might see what potential readers might say. Whether they’re beta readers, critique group members, or professional editors, their opinions will go a long way. At a time when I thought Mystical Greenwood was good and the plot solid, an insightful and encouraging critique from author John DeDakis showed me that more work still needed to be done. To quote Ewan McGregor’s character in The Ghost Writer, I came to think of it as a case where “all the words are there. They’re just in the wrong order.” Some scenes were moved around and rewoven together as a result.

Originally, I had around half as many chapters that were twice as long, but then I started to wonder if they were too long. I’ve read books with really long chapters and found it to be frustrating finding a place to stop before bed. So about two thirds through a draft, I split those I had in two (excepting the prologue). I also switched from word numbers to number numbers. I once had chapter titles, but grew to dislike them, and after failing to think of new ones, I discarded them altogether. I felt they had become unnecessary.

The main reason I approached Mockingbird Lane Press was its founder, Regina Riney-Williams, has a great reputation as an editor. Over the course of two rounds of editing, I have found her insights and opinions invaluable. She has been constructive and encouraging, and I’m very grateful for her feedback as much as her willingness to take my book on. I’ve learned not only that so much can change through editing, but as a writer to never stop with one draft. To be a good writer, one must seek and accept feedback, subsequently editing, revising, and often rewriting, which must continue with every novel to come.

15 thoughts on “Edit, Revise, Rewrite

  1. I have been meaning to share with you that your blog posts are inspirational, Andrew. Thanks for your take on revising!
    Pre-published children’s author Beth Schmelzer in Annapolis ( We met at a NaNoWriMO write-in last year)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheers for sharing your joy and pain when you write a novel, Andrew! Insightful and honest. One thing, if I may suggest is that you should add images to your blog posts to catch readers’ eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve learnt a lot from having my writing critiqued. Im looking forward to getting an editor, though I’m sure some of the process will be painful, I imagined I’d learn so much from the process. For now I’ll continue to keep refining.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article and how very true. I have sadly been asked to read books (already published) that appear as if they haven’t even gone through one edit, never mind several. To be an author is definitely not just to write the work, but to clean and polish it, to question everything so that plot holes are found, continuity is kept, weaknesses are strengthen etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Inscribed #3 | Andrew McDowell

  6. Editing is my least favorite part of writing. It can easily consume two to three times as long to edit as it did to write the piece. And yet without it, I learn nothing and don’t put my best foot forward. You definitely short change yourself by skipping editing. Next step is the critique.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree, Andrew! I edit my work constantly and even repost revised work on my blog. I think refining one’s work is as fun as creating the first draft. I have my own poetry group but also belong to another one, and the feedback has been an invaluable part of my writing process. I always taught my students that revision is the most important part of the writing process… Re-Vise…Re-See.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Writing vs. Marketing—Balancing the Scales | Andrew McDowell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s