No-one tells you, when you’re an aspiring writer, what the editing process can be like – or if they do, you don’t listen. You’re too busy dreaming of finding an agent, and then acquiring a book deal, and after all that has finally happened, you’re far too excited to think about what comes next, apart from untold fame and fortune.
Then you’re allocated an editor and informed it’s time to begin the “structural edit”.
“Just move that event forward to the first quarter of the book,” your editor says, making it sound very simple, “and lose that character, but create another two. Then put this bit in the last third, and change the beginning completely. That’s all you really need to do.”
“Okay,” you say, and then you start to do it.
A few weeks (or months) later, when you’ve deleted scenes and moved thousands of others around – sometimes even splitting them, or shifting single sentences – you now have no idea whether you took that section about your main character’s dead aunt out, or whether you still need to write about her funeral. Have you already mentioned that the family dog was kidnapped by a burglar, or should you leave the random sentence that refers to it in the scene you’re working on today?
There are post-its all over the walls of your house, index cards all over the floor, and so many notes on the manuscript that they now exceed the word count of the book itself. But not to worry – you are still firmly in control, so a night out might be justified.
You’re back at your desk the next morning, feeling refreshed and full of enthusiasm, until…Sod it, now you’ve found the original bit about the funeral, just after you’ve written a whole new scene for that.
Oh, and you forgot to mention that the family owns a dog, before you changed the kidnapping scene. You said they had a cat – and you killed the burglar off, three weeks ago.