So I edited the first four chapters of my novel. Well, I re-wrote chapter 1, too, but I'll get to that later.
I had no idea what to actually do, to be honest. See, I had plenty of notes to work from (crits from an established and excellent editor in the industry, and edits from two of my friends), but there was also so much that was in my head –scenes that needed re-writing, dialogue that needed tightening up, research to do to make certain scenes feel more authentic, etc- that I didn't know where to start.
A large part of this was fear – I put together everything I've written over the past seven or eight years (since I've had a PC, and so saveable data) into one document and the wordcount was just over 115000 words. With not one project finished. The reason? Well, I was more of an editor than a writer. I would write a paragraph and agonize over it until I felt that it was perfect. I eventually graduated to a page. Then a paragraph. Eventually I reached 30000 words on a single project but then ground to a halt because I hadn't planned, plot-wise, character-wise, anything-wise. But I felt like I was making progress. I tried my hand at many different stories – I wrote a Tomb Raider scene in which Lara was skiing in the Alps when assassins sent to kill her trigger and avalanche, which Lara then rides; I wrote a scene in which Duncan McLeod arrives at a mountain hideaway to rescue Amanda from a kidnapper who is also immortal; I even wrote about 20000 words on a Star Wars project that I'm not saying anything about because I want to publish that novel one day. But the point remains – I never finished anything.
In the past two years I've learned to actually finish projects – hence 3 short stories that I've done. I had to learn how to stop editing and start writing – which is absolutely painful when you write a paragraph that hint at the awesomeness you want but reads like shite. But I've pushed on, slogged through, and now I'm staring 70K down.
On to the re-written chapter: There's much in the first chapter that sucks donkey-balls. Plenty. Huge amounts. I don't think that the main POV character was introduced properly; the reason for him being where he is is weak; etc. etc. So I spent an evening and re-wrote the first scene of the first chapter, changed plenty but kept to the main points of the scene, the main thrust of what the scene is supposed to achieve. I think it works better. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it works better. Re-writing that scene gave me some much-needed hope for the rest of the novel, because there are plenty of chapters that need to be re-written to make them work better, and I'm looking forward to it. But I digress, back to editing.
While I was editing I got a much-needed flash-back of what I was trying to do – I re-realized why I had chosen these characters to tell the story; I re-realized just what story I'm trying to tell; and if I was blade, I'm now much sharper. Editing doesn't only serve to make the novel better by fixing up everything that needs fixing – it also serves to re-excite you as the writer, to amplify that initial excitement, and that's just bloody awesome. And in some cases, sorely needed.
The thing is, I'm just like you: I doubt every word that I write, every scene, every character that I create. But that seed of doubt shrinks during editing, because I become a sculptor, or a gardener; a sculptor because I'm chipping away at the marble to reveal what's beneath; a gardener because I'm weeding, baby, weeding! J
So if you don't edit, if you leave it up to someone else, (I want to say shame on you, but I won't), you don't have a clue what you're missing. The world you're creating comes into sharper focus; the characters become more vital, their conflicts much more detailed, etc. etc. Even if you think what you've written is awesome, what you've written attains that uber-ness that will probably see you getting your book onto the shelves of bookstores the world over. Big words coming from an unpublished writer, huh? Well, I aim to prove what I say. J