FOUR – Over-writing

I am editing my novel at the moment, and it is a revealing process.

It is one thing writing in the safety of your bedroom or study, putting words on to a page that perhaps no-one else is going to read. It is quite another to get a book ready for publication, and realize that in a month or two you hope that lots of people are reading it.

This is it now, after this there is no chance at revision, the book is largely set in stone once you send it off to the printers. What it is after this process is what it will be forever. There is no fixing problems later.

So it has changed the way I read what I have written. I am a lot less tolerant of redundancies, clichés, slack passages. I should probably be more intolerant, and maybe I need an editor with an objective viewpoint, but at the moment I am concentrating on cutting. For one thing it is about 350 pages, and I will be charged by the page by the printers, so the shorter the book the cheaper the printing costs.

For another, I have noticed that I had a tendency to over-write. What I mean by that is that I have been over-explaining what characters mean and feel, over-describing scenes, places, people, using four adjectives where I only needed two. One of the key pieces of advice given to those who want to write is “show don’t tell.” I have been doing too much telling and not enough showing.

So I have been cutting. Deleting excess explanations, trimming the overgrowth of adjectives, cutting back on explaining, explaining, explaining. It is important to let the readers discover things for themselves and make their own minds up, without having to tell them everything.

So if nothing else, I think this whole process is improving my writing. Editing is good discipline, and useful practice, it forces you to concentrate on what works and what doesn’t, and to try to be objective in looking at your own writing. No doubt I will miss some things that could be shorn, but for now it is almost an enjoyable process to cut, cut, cut.


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