Ruthless Editing: The Pros and Cons

I’ve reached that stage again, the stage of ready to polish my manuscript and send it out. My latest novel Silent, a psychological thriller, falls in the YA category of fiction, intended for teenagers and Young Adults, and I particularly enjoy writing for this audience.  As I ploughed through the various drafts, I became aware – as I had done with previous writing projects – that a major edit only goes part of the way to achieving a polished piece of work. Admittedly, much of the editing process strengthens the plot and structure of the novel. However, a noticeable downside appears to persist – namely, that in pruning or refining the writing, the author loses something of the spirit of the work.  I believe this inevitably happens.

So how does a writer fix the problem?  In my opinion, by viewing the ruthless edit as only part of the process and going through the revised manuscript after a period of several weeks to gain a fresh perspective. Often, the edit will have solved many of the problems, but not entirely. The danger, I think, lies in sending out the newly edited work without giving it a second glance.

Another possibility – my opinion, only – consists of keeping records of all previous manuscripts and occasionally reaching compromises.  For example: section A in draft One is full of potential but a bit overwritten, section A in the next draft brings out the tension and gets rid of the superfluous, but now some of the potential for immediacy has gone. In other words, flat writing. The answer, perhaps, could be using a fraction of the overwritten section to boost up the style of the more tightened revised section.

Meanwhile, I hope to finish the polish by next weekend, so I guess I will find out soon enough if I’m on the right tracks.


Polishing The Manuscript

After months of and several breaks from the manuscript of my third novel, I need to do a final short overall check before sending the manuscript on to an editor for advice.  It’s astonishing how simple, and sometimes more obvious, mistakes can linger, even after many drafts.

My novel falls into the genres of thriller, crime writing.  Plots in thrillers tend to be complicated, along with the structure of the novel.  Each time a draft changes, the complexity multiplies, leaving lots of places where minor mistakes, or sometimes major ones, can fester and combine.  Further, changing the position of chapters often strengthens a plot – for example, chapter eight before chapter five because chapter five introduces a new viewpoint.  However, the writer may overlook the simple errors that occur as a result of this change.

Hence, the need for time out and ruthless edits.