My First Thoughts on the Vodnik Edit

Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors DoThe Vodnik edit came in the mail yesterday. What does this mean? It means that I got a copy of the book with my editor’s handwriting all over it (in purple, not red ink). For those of you wondering, that’s 282 pages of text right now (1.5 spaced, I believe). Vodnik clocks in at around 102,000 words (Microsoft Office word count). How much ink was on the pages? Enough that it probably increased the shipping weight.

Seriously–most pages have something on them, and some pages have a lot of somethings. Before I got this edit, I was kind of nervous to see what it would be like. Were we talking about huge global changes that would take days of struggle for me to work through? Would I read it and weep for the amount of work that was ahead of me?

The answer is (thankfully) no and no. For those of you who have done writing groups (or been in one with me), this edit is comparable to a very thorough read through by an extremely good reader. Stacy noticed things that not one of my other gifted readers had picked up on. Things like character motivations that shift from one scene to another, or facts that contradict earlier facts. Some of this is due to the fact that we’re working on a fourth draft here–there’s been plenty of changes from draft one to now, and I didn’t catch all the changes all the time, and some of the changes cause problems elsewhere that I also didn’t catch.

But still, as I paged through the edit last night, I was relieved more than anything else. This was something I could do. It’s something I’ve done before. It won’t be a walk in the park–one of the things Stacy pointed out is that the book is too long right now. I agree. I’ve been wanting it to be around 75,000 words, and unfortunately each edit has made it longer, not shorter. I debated just cutting out every fourth word, but something tells me that might make it not quite as smooth. So how DO I cut it down? She noticed–and I agree, as have many of my readers to this point–that the first third of the book is slower than the last two thirds. That’s a place that’s prime for trimming, but I need to sit down and figure out what can go, what can be rewritten, what needs to stay.

When my friend Brandon Sanderson is rewriting, he likes to cut 15% from each chapter on a pure word count basis, meaning he does a word count before the edit, then one after. If he’s gotten to 15%, then he’s good to go. If he hasn’t, he tries to keep cutting. I’ve tried this approach with some of my writing before, and I’m not sure how well it works for me. I feel like my voice is a particularly chatty one–conversational. That means that a lot of the time, I certainly *can* say things more succinctly, but I’m not sure if it makes it any better. The one book I tried this with across the board didn’t feel appreciably improved at the end, although it was shorter.


Wow. Check that. Reverse it. While I was writing the above paragraph, I was trying to remember for the life of me which book I’d cut by 15%. Turns out it was Vodnik. I’m actually on draft 6, not draft 5. Draft 4 had been trimming the story from 112,000 to 96,000 words. Draft 5 was me then revising it madly last September, and now here we are at draft 6. Looking over journal entries, there’s a whole long road this book has gone down, and it will be interesting one day to sit down and trace its path. But today is not that day.

In any case, what this means is that maybe my writing *does* get better when I hack it back some. I’m going to have to reevaluate my world view now. 🙂 What it also means is that it won’t be all that easy to just do a 15% trim on this current draft–a lot of the fat got chopped already. So I need to be looking at scenes, examining them to see if they’re pulling their weight, and then trying to see if I can accomplish the same thing in an easier way.

That’s actually first up on my plate–I’m summarizing what each chapter in the first third of the book accomplishes, then seeing if there are ways to condense that, and if each chapter is necessary. I won’t cut just to have something shorter–it’ll be as long as it *needs* to be. But I’m sure there are things that can be streamlined.

Should be interesting. No worries–I’ll keep you all informed as this goes on. Wish me luck!

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