Because I’ve been jumping back into WITCH EYES over the last month, I’ve been constantly thinking about edits, and making comparisons. Edits are kind of like fruit. Edits are kind of like Ford. Edits are kind of like oh crud did I forget to pay the phone bill? No? Oh, I did? Whew.
The Massive Changes – There are cracks in the foundation, the wiring needs to be completely ripped out, and that hot water tank won’t last through another bubble bath. Edits like this are severe, massive things that not only require a lot of brute strength, time, and a heaping of stress, but they also require a lot of foresight and mental power. Once you start ripping out walls, part of your brain has to remember where that wall goes for when you’re done. And that can be taxing. But at the end of the day, the book is stronger for it.
These are usually the big picture things. Maybe your plot needs an overhaul, maybe your themes got a little muddled, or maybe that B plot you had such love for doesn’t reach a satisfying conclusion. These are the renovations that are going to take the longest, because moving the kitchen to the other side of the house isn’t going to get done in a day.
The Remodel – The structure’s alright, but all that wallpaper and carpeting has GOT to go. And we’re definitely ripping out that tiki bar you put in the basement. These remodels aren’t quite as mentally tasking – you’re not tearing up the walls or foundation of your novel, you’re just making a lot of changes to each of the rooms.
So your plot is okay, the direction of your novel is fine, but maybe that character growth is lacking, or the villain is coming off far too “70s floral chic” instead of “classic modernism” like you were hoping. Where in the massive changes, you may have a ten point list of all the major things that need reworking, here its more like 300 tiny things. None of them are particularly taxing or hard to incorporate, but its just a lot of work all the same.
That Fresh Coat of Paint – And let’s not forget the theoretical “this house is absolutely gorgeous, but can we do something about the paint color.” Maybe your edits aren’t serious at all, and maybe all you need is just some real easy tweaks and adjustments to make the house really shine. If so, I think I speak for most writers everywhere when I say that we hate you for it. 😉
This is when the discussion about ‘minor’ edits comes into play. Maybe your endings the only thing that really needs some tweaks, or maybe that crucial scene with the hyena-people needs less dialogue, but this is the Holy Grail of edits, and also the Most Terrifying. Because as writers, we are constantly striving to make our stories better. So when someone comes along and says “there are only four things to tweak and you’re done” then we start worrying. Was that the right wall color? Should we have moved the den downstairs? Are the kids going to like their new rooms?
And then of course, you’re done with the remodel, and by that point you’re just so happy to be DONE that you don’t even think about it. Until you wake up in the middle of the night, and you realize the bedroom walls don’t match the hallway. And wouldn’t that vase look much better in the foyer, where more people could admire it?
A book, like a remodel, is never done. But we still have to give it up and let it go out into the world. Just like we have to keep living in our homes.