The 2 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Editing Your Book

giant leaf

I’m working through The Last Cyborg manuscript right now. The process is fraught with pitfalls. I wrote from an outline, but I was not very experienced at the time that I wrote it, and so the balance between preserving the storytelling and altering the word choice requires close attention.

Two Common Errors Often Made In Editing

  1. Disrupting the original chain implied in the story
  2. Cutting character emotion, because “It’s too much; people will make fun of this.”

But Rewrites Are The Life-Blood Of Editing, Victor!

Writing down a story involves the laying down, within words, of a hopefully-unbroken chain of energy impulses. When a writer inserts new words, or cuts old ones without creating a careful bridge over the gap, the work becomes like a crusted bowl of chopped spaghetti.

Ew, Gross!

I talked briefly yesterday about cleaning your transitions; editing is a time when many, many good stories become garbled,  energetically nonsensical, and broken. Merely creating sense from words is not enough; the words must incorporate the same flavor and intensity of energy as were contained in the original draft.

Each Edit Becomes A Potential Transition

Beware, good stranger, of indiscriminate removal of sentimental or weakly-expressed phrases. Unless you are closely monitoring the internal energy chain of thought and meaning within the story, your editing will lessen the writing’s impact.

And Now, Thing 2

Many first drafts are enthusiastic, and contain expressive descriptions of how a character feels. These explorations of emotion are often targeted and axed in the editing process, because they seem too fluffy, or because a writer feels that such pure sentiment will open their work to ridicule.

Sentiment Has A Place In Fiction

Though overdrawn and bombastic emotion is unnecessary, a stoic set of characters is not much fun at all; they seem dry. When you are editing, and you come across a passage of emotion that seems too much, pause for a moment, and ask yourself if you are looking at the overall tone, or if you just want to avoid vulnerability.

Examples Of Editing

Original Draft:

Azua felt horrible. If she had woken up without the dreams, she thought, she would have been able to cope with the webbed monsters and their needle-like teeth. It’s all Harold’s fault, she reflected, as she sliced through the neck of yet another hurtling beast.

They were the size of engorged frogs, and their flailing limbs slapped against her legs with irritating regularity.

Poor Editing:

Azua roared and whipped her sword around her head. The green animals whizzed at her face, their needle-like teeth bared. Azua cut through the neck of a hurtling beast, and stomped hard on the face of another. Her hair fell damp against her cheeks.

The monsters snarled as a group, and their flailing limbs slapped against her legs with irritating regularity.

Better Editing:

Azua’s brow ached, and her skin was slick with a fevered sweat; she felt horrible. If she hadn’t dreamed of Harold’s rejection last night, again, she was sure she would have been able to dispatch of the webbed monsters and their needle-like teeth with relative ease. It’s all Harold’s fault, she reflected bitterly, as she carved through the neck of yet another hurtling beast.

The creatures were like enormous frogs, and their flailing tongues slapped against her legs with irritating regularity, making her feel as though she was in a sea of stinging mouths.

Beware These Two Mistakes in Editing

Watch out for cutting emotions, and for removing passages or adding new ones without paying close regard to the energy already flowing through the sentences. Remember that the original feel of the piece will be more valuable if its flavor and charm remain intact. Preserve the heart of your writing, and edit with care.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Here are my books. If your Thursday is going well, this novel will make it even better.