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The (Sometimes) Painful Art of Editing Creative Copy

Earlier this month, I finished editing the first draft of my Faerietales 5: Flights of Fancy manuscript – creative copy I had a lot of fun writing in the first place.

I had a lot of fun editing it too. For the most part. Admittedly, there were a few spots where I was at my creative wits' end.

The manuscript started out at about 106,000 words, which is well within the 100,000 to 120,000-word range typical of the fantasy genre. But it still ran more than most of the other stories in the series. So I already knew I’d want to trim this latest – and last – Faerietales manuscript somewhat.

However, I never intended to chop it down as much as I did. Because the official word count is now at a mere 101,308 – which is definitely less than its predecessors.

Ultimately, that doesn’t matter much. It’s the story and how readers respond to it that count. The characters need to stand out in a compelling manner. The plot has to be strong, making sense from start to finish. The setting must be well-established. And the dialogue needs to come across as engaging and realistic.

It's just that, for Flights of Fancy, it took a lot more editing than expected to make that happen.

It wasn’t that the actual story was horrible. I know very well how embarrassingly bad the first draft (and last draft) of the first novel-length manuscript I ever worked on was. But I’ve gotten much better since then. So my copy can usually stand on its own well enough after I’ve completed round 1.

It’s more the sentence structure that needs to be changed, plot points that need to be rounded out and dialogue that needs some tweaking.

As for the characters, they start out awesome, thank you very much.

Though they’d better start out awesome in this particular manuscript considering how it’s book 5 in the series. A total of 10 years creating, editing and publishing them has to amount to something.

But each new book, of course, is different. So I always understand I’ll have to make some changes.

Those changes began after I gave the first chapter to my writing critique group, which told me I took up too much time explaining background details about the first four stories. So I edited that chapter, as well as the next two, cutting out paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs from that section of the manuscript.

I also kept that critique in mind as I read through the rest of it, checking to make sure I didn’t over-explain anything. On top of that, I had my regular editor’s voice in my head, reminding me not to get too far inside my main character’s head.

Problem is, I do that a lot. So there were those additional cuts to factor in.

Plus, I might have added in a few scenes that weren’t really necessary, making my manuscript look like an amateur had composed it.

Then factor in the normal things I have to edit out, and voila! Even with the stuff I added in (a couple thousand words in its own right), I was still down approximately 4,000 words – which was a little bit painful, I’ll admit.

But for any pain and suffering I went through, it was worth it for the simple reason that the second draft now looks a lot better.

And that will make editing the second draft easier. As well as the third and fourth and fifth until it’s professionally polished for publishing.



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