Jewel E. Leonard
Editing is Hell
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
I'd like to preface this post by saying the title is nothing more than (one of a few) Matt Groening references. I don't honestly feel that way about it.
Although maybe putting it into the context of another quotation ("Hell is repetition," which is attributed to more than one source according to a quick search on the Great Oracle), the blog title has some basis in reality.
This is where my upcoming release (Coven) is: editing hell. I personally am a big fan of editing. I believe I'm better at doing line edits than I am at any other part of this publishing process and why I make one hell of an ally for folks looking for a wicked good proof reader. However, this business with Coven has dragged on so long that I'd do pretty much anything to get out of it.
There was even a time I was considering just formatting the book and sending it out into the world as it was.
Thank god I came to my senses and wasn't tempted by dark forces to do what self-published writers shouldn't (but do more often than I care to admit, which is one of many reasons we, as a group, have a reputation for ... premature publication ... you get what I'm saying).
Not today, robot satan! (This dude actually goes by Robot Devil but the phrase just didn't have its usual zing.)
And let me tell you: while this has pushed back my scheduled release by ... months and months and months ... it has been for my readers' benefit. (OK, fine. You caught me: it's 100% for myself.) But to be fair, it's really hard to work through depression, then a full-time (plus) job. I'm doing my best.
So rounding back to Krusty up there: what's the freaking hold-up? This last stage of line edits. My process is pretty hackneyed, except when it comes to the final edit. I save the best and most agonizing chore for last: seeking out and destroying unnecessary words (such as that, had, and of). Maybe someday I'll write a blog post about those offenders because you're probably looking at me right now like "how the hell do you consider those unnecessary?!" They are at least 85% of the time. (Maybe someday I'll sit down with one particular novel and actually get an accurate percentage and then share how/why I came to that conclusion.) But I digress.
This last stage takes for-actual-ever. In Coven's case, I'm scouring a 144,000+ word document for 110 words and phrases that either need to be omitted entirely or changed in some way or other. This serves to tighten the manuscript, which in turn does a couple great things:
I've shortened the novel by several thousand words, which ultimately means I can sell physical copies for a little less money!
The writing is far easier to read and in some cases may actually even be a little, dare I say, artful?
I'll leave you with a recent example of how this edit is improving the novel. Here, I'm looking to remove or edit the word "took." In the second half of the book, there were 102 occurrences of this word. I'm partly through my search and already down to 60. Here's what one of the changes looks like:
Original sentence: If this was what it took to be a member of society, looking like a feral beast was starting to appeal.
Edited sentence: If this was requisite for joining society, looking like a feral beast had its appeal.
6 words shorter and IMHO far better--though it's entirely possible this sentence won't make it to publication without additional changes. (6 words may not seem like a lot, by-the-way, but it adds up!)
Omitting weak words in favor of stronger ones also encourages me to make other changes which further tightens my prose—as you can see in the above example. So yeah, it's agonizingly slow. It's tedious. I'd rather be doing practically anything else (like cleaning the litter boxes, as I got roasted on Twitter once for admitting) ...
... but it's a necessary evil and it's how I'm spending my lockdown while not working from home. So rejoice, dear friends, as there's a silver lining to this toilet-paper-hoarding, social-distancing storm cloud:
Coven may be ready for its proof sooner rather than later! And what better way to spend your quarantine than by reading a really long book? 😉
Check back in for updates and other frivolity in the coming weeks. Stay distanced and stay well, my friends!