So I’m dutifully–if inconsistently thanks to the busyness of my schedule–making my way through the first edit of my novel, and I am enjoying the experience. I always do, nowadays, but that wasn’t the case the first time around.
My first novel was a wretched Dawson’s Creek-style high school drama that will never, EVER, see the light of day (mostly because a chunk of the physical copy went missing at some point and I no longer have a saved copy of the original doc), and I can recall wanting nothing to do with the editing process because my goal had been more about seeing if I could actually complete the massive undertaking of completing a draft of a novel for the first time. I hadn’t really considered the editing side of things. Eventually I slogged through it and did some editing, but I didn’t exactly dive into it with any excitement.
Now I do. I’ll admit it’s a tricky balance, trying to remain as objective as possible while evaluating work you have created (Side note: It is hilarious to me when I have one of those moments where I read a section of a story I have written and realize that I have absolutely ZERO recollection of writing that part!), and editing without getting so wrapped up in reliving each scene that you forget to keep your critical eye sharp and ready, but editing is something I’m up for now. I’m using Track Changes as I go through and delete spaces, switch words around, add sentences, or otherwise slash entire paragraphs until there is more red on the page than a Korean action flick, and I find it to be a good help to me. It keeps me honest.
You can’t be afraid to critique your own work. I know, you have that really cool phrase you desperately wanted to slip into the story and can’t bear to delete now, or some gorgeous detail-heavy description you know you could have written in five words, but instead wrote in 55 (guilty…many times over), but you have to let those things go. Serve the story, not yourself.
I’m finding I’m having to change details to eliminate inconsistencies, get rid of clunky or unnecessary dialogue, and otherwise make sure the story doesn’t start unraveling like Professor Tripp’s never-ending, 2,600-plus page opus in Wonder Boys, and I like that. Hopefully one of the reasons you write is because you enjoy it, but when it comes to editing and perfecting your story, it’s important to remember that it isn’t about you. I didn’t get that at first, but now I do and this allows me to enjoy the editing process more than I could have dreamed I would be able to when I first started writing novels.