Writing the words ‘the end’ feels spectacular. Even though it’s my second draft, the story has evolved and changed so much that finishing it feels like an entirely new experience.
How did I celebrate?
I made a video of me typing the words ‘the end’ and sent it to my small writing group – a kind of virtual toast (we are in lockdown after all).
I’m excited to start the editing process, but after some consideration, I’ve decided that rather than jump right in, I’ll take a month off.
That’s an excellent question.
Writers need to rest
Writing this novel has been an extremely emotional experience. I’ve cried with my characters, rejoiced in their victories and been frustrated when they didn’t do what they were supposed to. It has been fun, exciting and exhausting.
I need to rest.
I need to write other things, like this blog, to keep my passion and creativity flowing before I move into a completely different aspect of the writing process – editing.
Editing is hard.
Moving from a creative mindset to a critical one is not something I do easily. I know that editing will take a lot out of me, and I need to be refreshed to do the story justice.
Distance can be a good thing
My characters, quite literally, have a mind of their own. I can plan the basic outline of where I want them to begin and end, but that doesn’t mean that they will behave and follow the path I’ve marked out for them. I’ve noticed from listening to interviews with published authors and from reading books on writing that there are two very different types of writers.
Camp one: writers who are driven by their characters.
Camp two: writers who control their characters.
There is a whole other blog post about this that is coming soon.
I’m in the first camp. Which I think will cause a problem when editing. Characters live and die on the page, so scrapping scenes that aren’t valuable or don’t move the story forward, or rewriting scenes that need more tension won’t go down well with my unruly characters.
So, by giving myself a little distance from them I can jump into editing with a different mindset, one where I can be a little more ruthless. Moving more into the second-camp, so to speak.
Juggling a full-time job, social life and writing leave very little room for reading for pleasure. So taking a month off from writing gives me time to read other books from the genre I’m working in. Taking time to explore successful books in my genre, compare them, and break them down will help me move from that creative mindset to a critical one.
I can also practice editing using these books. I can map out pivotal scenes in each chapter and study how they transition from one to another.
Like my university lecturer used to say: “Writers write and writers read” and it’s important to take the time to do the latter.
I don’t know other writers processes, but the path I have gone down is writing the main plotline. Now that this is done I have a better understanding of which characters are integral to the story. I have a much clearer idea of which supporting characters are integral and which ones may need to be put on a shelf for another book.
From here, I can start building sub-plots for my supporting characters. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where there isn’t any insight given to the lives of the supporting characters. And I want to give my supporting characters’ lives of there own.
During my ‘month off’, I’m building out a better picture of all of my characters. I’m writing descriptions of how they look, their characteristics and planning out their side plots so that I can integrate them into the main story without detracting from the big picture.
I’ve mentioned above that editing, at least for me, requires moving into a completely different mindset. It’s a very analytical one. While I’ve had plenty of practice of this in my full-time job, doing this with my story is a much bigger deal.
So I’ve plotted out questions to ask myself as I go through each chapter. I’ve created documents with these questions as the header and then a checklist of my chapters. Each week I’ll go through one chapter, edit it from a visual point of view and then check this against my questions. Once all of these are ticked off the list, I’ll move on to the next chapter.
I decided on one chapter each week purely because my full-time job is mentally time-consuming. Moving on to editing after eight hours of work will result in less focus and a poorer job. So, I will spend the weekday evenings relaxing and reading, and the weekends editing a chapter along with scheduling time to relax, go out, see people and, most importantly, rest.
I’ll go into my preparation documents in more detail in another post, so keep an eye out for that.
Taking a break is so much harder than I thought it would be
I thought I would welcome the opportunity to take a break. But I miss my characters and I want to get back to spending time with them. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve reached from my laptop and had to physically restrain myself.
But I have to really stick to my guns here and be disciplined. I only have a week or so left and I cannot wait! But, there is a lot still to do before I enter the world of editing.