The differences between working on my first novel (the still unpublished and seemingly never to be published Shadow Of A Doubt) and my latest work in progress (Summer) continue through the editing process. I think it’s intriguing to note how much things have changed.
When I finished SOAD, it was a hot freaking mess. It was my first attempt at a NaNoWriMo event, and while I “won” with a November monthly total over 50,000 words, the product that came forth from that effort was bad. Like… really bad, pathetically bad, would only appeal to an eight year old bad. I shelved it for a couple of years, then decided a complete re-write was in order. New main character, old character relegated to a mentor status, new (at the time, modern) setting, new plot lines and side characters. I spent all of the spring/summer of 2015 doing the re-write and producing something that was definitely much improved.
With publishers showing a lack of interest, I decided to return the novel to the setting that was at its original noir roots, an alternate 1930’s America. So that happened in early 2016, and the novel grew even longer as I added new scenes and re-wrote old ones again, expanding from the former re-written 65,000 words to over 93,000. The product was even better, though even now I may go back and tweak a scene, revamp a little of the ending, play around with the opening, etc. But I like where it ended up, though honestly I think I wrote the thing three different times completely, not including all the other edits that were done.
This time the writing was much easier. I still churned out a shit ton (metric) of words, particularly last September when I wrote over 50,000 (my own NaNoWriMo without all the pressure), and put it aside at the beginning of November. In December I read it again, taking notes of changes I wanted to make on each chapter and creating an editing outline for the work. Starting January 1st, I executed most of the changes (some will be revisited later, but I left those portions alone for now to see if beta readers agree with me). Some chapters got shuffled around, a few chapters written in first person were adapted back to third to help segregate the sections being told from Hammond’s perspective (all first person) from the other characters in the novel. Some scenes were modified, the ending tweaked.
Overall, though, unlike SOAD which I really despised after I finished it, I still like Summer. Still find myself enjoying the work, thinking I did a pretty good job. The editing went quickly and is already done now, and I’ve handed it off to the wife for a first beta read. I’m still waiting for the professional editor I paid to do a developmental read of the first three chapters to get back to me on that so I can decide if I will pursue their hard work in an edit of the full work.
So the editing experience has been VERY different. That may be (and I think this is right) that I’ve improved as a writer, I’m better at getting my thoughts down even without an outline, letting the story guide me, and pulling back on the reins when it seems to be starting to go off the rails. I tweak and do some editing as I go along, re-reading what I wrote on previous days before I start writing again the next few pages, and it works for me. This is my process, and it seems to provide a functional way to get this done.
We’ll see if beta readers agree with me on the quality of the work, though. I suspect there will be some more substantive changes coming out of the results of that. At some point soon (probably after my wife reads it) I’ll start searching for a couple more readers to give their thoughts. But for now, I’m pleased at what six months of sustained effort with a two month break in the middle can produce. Fingers crossed the next novel will go as well.