Presidents Day Edit: Slash and Burn

Coleman Camp AxeAnd so the edit begins. It took me three hours today to get through the first three chapters. That’s not a terribly good sign, although I guess now that I look back at it, that’s just an hour per chapter. It felt like a lot more. Then again, I have 36 chapters, and 24 writing days (I don’t do Sundays) until my deadline. Once I’m done with the more global changes, I’d like 6 days or so of writing time to look at some smaller level issues–switching up word choice, tightening descriptions, etc.

There’s a lot still to be done. Kind of scary.

The trick at this point is that I’m really familiar with the material. It gets pretty tricky to know if I’m cutting too much or not enough. I know what I want the final product to look like–what sort of a feel it should have, what sort of pacing. But how do I tell if something is really boring, or if it just seems slow because I’ve read it so many times now?

You can always cut more information from a story, just like you can always add. If you keep cutting, Lord of the Rings turns into “Some small furry creatures didn’t like jewelry.” If you keep adding, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” turns into War and Peace. So what you choose to put in a story is just as important as what you keep out.

That said, in my read through of Vodnik this time, there were still chapters that thoroughly entertained me. I know those are working. I’m still quite pleased with the ending, and I’m strengthening plot lines in ways that I think will make it even better–strengthening the weak parts in the middle and tying the story together more. But none of that happens here at the beginning. Right now, the main problem is that the book takes too long to get to the good stuff. It needs to go faster. I started with 6600 words and ended with 5100. So about 23% cut, which should hopefully end up making that beginning whir along speedily. I’ll need to set it aside for a while and then read it again to see if it makes sense.

But then that’ll be my sixth time reading the beginning. When you start to doubt your doubts, you’ve gotten way too meta.

It’s at times like these that I’m really glad I have an editor.

And a wife who hasn’t read this book yet–so she’ll be able to read the beginning, and we can talk about it. Fresh eyes are always a bonus.

Anyway–enough. Today is a vacation day, after all. I’m heading over to a friend’s house to play Axis and Allies and eat too much food. Happy Presidents Day, all!

3 thoughts on “Presidents Day Edit: Slash and Burn”

  1. I’m interested in how you go about making the actual changes (logistically) – do you use Track Changes or anything so that when you read back through you can focus on areas that you have changed? Or maybe by now you are so familiar with it all that you recognize the new stuff as you go through. Just curious!

  2. Clearly I need better logistics, since I’ve discovered that the draft I’m editing on computer is different than the paper one my editor and I made comments on. Sigh.

    I have a printed manuscript that she and I have marked up heavily, and then I put those notes into an electronic one, with Track Changes enabled so I can keep a general feel for where I am and what’s getting moved where. Once that’s all done, I’ll accept the changes to see if everything’s still looking good.

    There are two more drafts after this one to go (line edit and copy edit), so you’ll be able to get all the gritty details as it unfolds. Stay tuned!

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