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Drafting and Editing – Where does it end?

I’m in the middle of writing a novel for NaNoWrimo and so I haven’t done any other fiction work this month. My novel in progress was sent to an editor before I started this challenge and so it was good to be able to put it to one side for a while and get on with something new.

I got the report back the other day though and so thoughts of that story have been creeping slowly back in. I’m itching to bet back to it but at the same time, the prospect of editing it again is daunting to say the least. This is the second editor to have read my work. The first came back with a few amendments, but was generally positive about the story as a whole. I took on board their suggestions but for some reason couldn’t trust the fact that they had come back to me with so little for me to do. I didn’t have the confidence to move on with it, so I sent it to someone else.

The result is somewhat different and I am now faced with the decision of whether to make these fundamental changes this second editor suggests. The story is about a boy who can see dead people. When he connects to the ghost of a dead girl from his own town, he finds out that she has been missing for five years and that she can’t move on until her body is found. He decides to help her. When I initially wrote this story, it was about Jake, but I had some early feedback from a publisher, who said she would be interested to find out more about Aimee’s limbo world (the ghost girl), so I took this advice and added her side of the story. I then went on to add Sophie (Aimee’s sister) to the tale, because when Jake and Sophie meet, they form a friendship that develops as the story unfolds. I wanted to capture both of their feelings. It is an emerging romance, which I felt fitted for the young adult audience it is aimed at.

The first editor said this three-way viewpoint works well, whilst the second asked the question, ‘whose story is this?’ First editor said they liked the way we see Jake and Sophie through each other’s eyes. The second said do we need Sophie in this story at all? They also said that there was too much detail about Aimee’s post-death experience. Whilst one said the prologue was intriguing, the other said it undermined the mystery of the story. The contradictions go on and I won’t bore you with the details. My point is merely that I keep changing this story to suit the reader and I am wondering when it will ever end.

There are lots of positive points from this second edit and it will help me to tighten up my writing. It won’t be easy, though. Whilst I understand the need for ‘show don’t tell’ and have included lots of dialogue. There are elements of the story where I use inner monologue to portray the character’s feelings and retrospection to bring up something that happened in the past but felt was relevant for the reader to know. This is all ‘telling’ and I’m not quite sure how to ‘show’ them. I have a lot to think about, including questions about whether some scenes are relevant to the story: scenes that might not push the story forward in the right way.

For now I need to finish the first draft of the novel I am currently working on. Then I can put it to one side and go back to my other one. I have told myself this is it now. I have to sort it once and for all so that I can draw a line under it, learn from it and move on.

Any editing advice would be most appreciated.

Sharing this for What I’m Writing.

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  1. Mummy Tries says

    I think a three way story can work well, I’ve read books that are told from a variety of character’s point of view and as long as they don’t contradict each other then it’s quite clever watching it all come together.

    In terms of the editors I guess you have to ask yourselfhow reputable they are and how much you trust their advice. Only you can answer that my dear #whatimwriting

    PS. Sounds like NaNoWrMo is going great guns, well done you!!

  2. maddy@writingbubble says

    How tricky to receive such conflicting advice from the editors! I guess it just goes to show how much subjectivity there is in the world of writing. I think your gut instinct was that the first editor wasn’t picking up enough but that doesn’t necessarily mean the second one has got things perfect either. I’ve read quite a few books recentely with a multiple view point.. I think it canwork well but you have to be careful not to give too much away. Sometimes it’s nice when we have to work out someone’s motives/feelings etc. for ourselves. Only you can decide though! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting xx

  3. sophieblovett says

    Ah this is such a dilemma! When my first novel went out to publishers the feedback I received was all contradictory. There were no common threads – the things someone wash;t sure about would be exactly what someone else loved – and there was nothing there that either I or my agent felt was worth acting on. If someone had actually been making me an offer and wanted to make changes then I might have been more open to it, but otherwise I think you have to focus on how you want to tell the story and trust your judgement until you get to that stage.

    But for now you’re right that you need to focus on getting your NaNo novel finished! It sounds like it’s going really well 🙂 xx

  4. Adria J. Cimino says

    That is indeed a dilemma… For points like sentence length and structure, word choice or pace, the decision is easy. But in this case, when it concerns the fundamentals of your story and the opinions are different, I say go with your heart. Good luck with your writing!

    • Nicola Young says

      Yes, You are right. There are some things I need to think about. But I am the one at the disadvantage here, because I don’t have the publishing experience that these professional editors do.

  5. Sara (@mumturnedmom) says

    I wish I had some useful advice for you! One thing I will say is that I’ve read a few books where the story has been told by multiple characters (two or three) and I have enjoyed the different perspectives gained. The same events can be seen differently by different characters, and this can add an interesting dynamic. I would say, go with your gut. It’s your novel and your story x #whatimwriting

  6. Emily says

    Gosh that all sounds a bit tricky and it demonstrates how subjective writing is. Ultimately I think you have to trust your own instinct and decide on what your own personal story telling style will be. When you publish you will find the same with readers too – most books have varying opinions in their reviews. Do what feels right for you and perhaps address it when you’ve finished NanNo. I think editing work never feels completely finished, there are always things you think you need to sort. Would it help to read one or two books in the genre to get some ideas on how they’ve dealt with the story? It’s possible to overthink it though.

    • Nicola Young says

      Thanks for this. I think you are right in that you can over think things and possibly go round and round in circles with editing. I don’t want to be influenced by reading too many of the same types of stories. I have been told that it has a similar feel to Lovely Bones, but I haven’t read it and I didn’t even know about this book when I came up with the idea!

  7. deskmonkeymummy says

    Well done on NaNo.

    About the book. I think you need to ask yourself what you feel about it? I always try to stick to one person, even when I’m writing third person. I know I would undermine the reader if I tried to be a bit omnipotent, but that does mean trying to hide clues through the story, which is a pain. I don’t like reading books that jump about too much as I find it disconnects me from the story, however, this is a technique used widely and with broad success.
    If you ditch the prologue, does the story lose anything? Is it something you can work in later? Can you start it at a different point? I try to avoid prologuing as well – again because I run the risk of undermining the reader due to the way I spam out words (and I don’t generally have a fully planned direction for a book when I start it. For the record, I don’t write in chapters either, so I’m actually writing glorified bad essays each time haha).
    Ultimately, these have to be your decisions and what you feel is best for the book, don’t worry too much about the market or the reader right now because they might surprise you. It’s unlikely that our friend Ms Rowling thought her books would be loved by kids and adults. (And James Herbert’s book Fluke was made into a film by Disney aimed at kids. The book is terrifying. The film not so.) Audiences change, opinions vary. You could always punt it out to a group of beta readers and see what they say?

  8. Nicola Young says

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply with such fab advice! I think I am starting to look at it differently already and coming around to the idea of taking it down to one or two viewpoints. I was also wondering whether to change it to third person, but I’m not sure. The prologue will be ditched and I was also thinking about starting it in a different place too, so you are on the same lines of thinking as me without even knowing the story (and that is good because you have no frame of reference and I am stuck deep in the middle of it). How do you get beta readers, do you know?


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