In the summer, I embarked upon the project of editing of my novel The Most Beloved Boy. I was aware of some mistakes, and knew that I would only find them all by completely rereading the text, correcting as I went. But I also knew that if I did that, I would want to change other things and make improvements; nothing major, no big plot changes or character assassinations, just tightening the narrative, removing as much waffle as possible and putting a tighter rein on the melodrama. I thought it would be a quick job for the summer, but somewhere around chapter 30 I ran into such a lot of waffle and melodrama that it was like getting stuck in a quagmire, and my “quick edit” became a more significant rewrite. But still there were no actual plot changes, not really, nothing that changed the overall story arc. It’s taken me all summer and beyond, but I am pleased with the results. I’m very nearly done and thought I was ready to upload the new draft to Kindle very soon.
But here’s the problem. I am a writer, but I am also an editor. And just last week, the editor in me started having this argument with the author. It goes a bit like this…
Author: So I think you’re really going to like this new draft. Look what I did in this chapter.
Editor: Yes, good, that section really needed cutting.
Author: And here, in this chapter, I sorted out all this waffle.
Editor: Oh yes, that’s much better.
Author: And look what I did to this chapter – a bit of a change, but less melodramatic, and it doesn’t affect the plot.
Editor: That was a brave step. Well done, I didn’t think you’d have the courage to do that, but it is much better for it.
Author: Thank you, I’m glad you like it. I’m really pleased with the results. I think the novel is pretty brilliant now. Don’t you agree?
Author: What? Don’t you like the changes?
Editor: No, I do, I really like the changes. In fact, I think you could have gone further.
Author: Oh, really? In what way?
Editor: Well, I really like the changes to Part Two. But what I think is, and bear with me on this because this might shock you, I think you should bring Part Two to an end at this chapter.
Author: What, that chapter there?
Editor: Yes. Cut all of this, and jump straight to Part Three at this point here.
Author: But, that would mean cutting two whole chapters.
Editor: Yep, that’s right.
Author: But, two whole chapters? I can’t do without those chapters.
Editor: Well, yes you can. All of this is really only showing what the reader already knows is going to happen. The structure format you chose for your narrative means that there is no mystery here. So you can without it. In fact, if you cut to Part Three here, you are adding some extra tension.
Author: I suppose so. But I was really proud of those chapters. What about the heartfelt emotions I have painstakingly developed? Those chapters have some of my most heart breaking scenes in them.
Editor: But it doesn’t move the plot on. No matter how beautiful the heartbreak is, it’s pointless if it doesn’t add to the plot. You know that. You’ve got so much better at reducing that sort of material.
Author: Yes, ok. But, if I removed those chapters, I would lose that big plot twist here. Now don’t tell me that that isn’t significant.
Editor: Well, I do like the twist, but the plot works without it. You have to admit that.
Author: Yes but…
Editor: And if the plot works without it, then it doesn’t really need to be there.
Author: But what about all the character depth it adds, and the intrigue to the original story? I’ve built it all up so carefully.
Editor: It won’t hurt your characters. The depth is still there, they won’t lose that.
Author: But … but …
Editor: And I’ve always been a bit worried that such a major twist coming in at the end seems a bit rushed over, almost like an afterthought.
Author: But it was such a good afterthought!
Editor: Not every thought needs to be in the novel. There is such a thing as too much.
Author: But I need that twist for the sequel. That’s when it does become central to the plot. If I add it later, it would just look like I was making up new facts to suit my new story.
Editor: Well, if you think you really need it, put it in somewhere else. It could fit into an earlier chapter. Make it more central rather than a twist. Hmm, yes, I quite like that idea.
Author: But that would mean rewriting a significant chunk of Part Two. It would be a major change. Surely you don’t want me to do that, do you? Not now, after all the work I’ve done? That would be crazy!
Editor: Hey, don’t get angry with me. I’m just a fictional editor – who you created, by the way. Whatever I say comes from you. You’re even making up this argument.
Author: (curling up into the foetal position) No, no, make it stop, it hurts.
Editor: Stop making such a fuss. Anyway, about this new character, the Editor – got any good story lines for her?
And that’s where I am at the moment, stuck in a real quandary. Sometime the editor in me is the voice of reason, telling me that this is one of those ideas that just can’t be ignored. Other times, the author in me just wants to finish this project and move on; after all, it is November, and my intention of starting a new novel this year has not come to fruition. If only there was a real editor who could tell me what to do.
And as I’m no closer to making a decision, I guess I’ll have to leave this blog on a cliff-hanger