The First Cut is the Deepest. Although the second and third hurt a lot, too. And the fourth. And…

 

I’ve been trying to finish my current novel for a while, now. I finished the draft two years ago, and began the second draft last year (I think?!) And it’s still not done. In between I’ve been writing, of course—many articles and short stories, and poems, and blog posts, not to mention the freelance work. It’s not like I stopped writing, but I did stop writing my novel.

So it’s sitting in a state of stasis. And I know why.

The good thing about working as an editor is that I can tell where my novel needs improvement.

The bad thing about working as an editor is that I can tell where my novel needs improvement.

It’s one thing to know what needs to be done. It’s another to have the courage to sit down and do it.

I know what the problem is with my novel. As my first novel, it needs to be simplified. I’m trying too hard to turn it into some grand masterpiece—at this stage, if I include all that I want, it’ll be around 150 000 words. That’s fairly epic, by most standards. And there is so much to research and write, if I choose that route. Of course, plenty of people do choose that route. They take years on their books, ending up with thick tomes from their decades of work.

I am not that kind of writer. I have neither the patience nor the will to spend so long on a book. And from a purely practical standpoint, I can’t afford it. I want to be able to sell my work. As it is, I write, edit and publish for a living. I want to be able to finish books so that I can use them as income—something that writers often don’t discuss, but which is close to most of our hearts (and our bellies).

I also want to be able to finish my novel, so that I can learn from it. I want to be able to take the mistakes I’ve made with this book and use my knowledge to do better next time. That might mean I plan better, or that I have a better understanding of character or plot development, or that I manage my time better. The more I write, the better I get—hopefully! And while I’ve learnt a lot already from working on this novel, I know that if I finish it, I will not only have the benefit of having finished a novel which I can then look to try and publish. I’ll also have a sense of achievement that comes with completing a project which, while not War and Peace worthy, has certainly taken long enough.

So the next couple of weeks is dedicated to cuts. Carving out huge swathes of words. Getting rid of various plot points which are irrelevant. It will, no doubt, be brutal. But I think it will be worth it. And this, too, is all about learning. So that the next project can begin, and so it can be better.

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About Rebecca Freeman

I'm an editor of fiction and non-fiction. I also write stories of my own, because then I can steal all the best bits of the work I edit. Uh... I mean, I find reading and editing other people's work really inspiring and interesting. Really, though. Being able to work with an author to help their work shine is such a privilege and a really fun experience. I'm so happy I get to do it. When not editing, I like to run, write, grub about in the dirt, and drink tea.
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