Edit heaven

My editor for the Christmas novella wished me luck as I went through edit-hell. I’m not sure whether that means she’s reading here or whether she assumes all writers find editing to be hell.

Someone on Twitter recently remarked that he finds joy in the first-draft writing and in the finished product, but that’s all.

I’m actually in edit-heaven. I may gripe about doing only editing, or about editing multiple manuscripts simultaneously, but in actuality, I like edits. There’s a joy in editing which you don’t find in straight-up writing, and that’s the joy of watching rapid improvement.

Both “The Guardian” and “Seven Archangels: Annihilation” went through the editing process without the publisher asking for more than word changes. In the meantime, I’ve heard about writers being asked to delete entire chapters, change a character’s motivation, turn two characters into one character, and so on.

I admit, I felt a little jealous. I wanted someone to care that much about my manuscript that she’d sit down and see every part of it, hold it all in her head, and turn it inside out the same ways I do in order to help make it better.

When the edits came for “The Boys Upstairs,” I’d gotten what I wished for, and I say that not in a “be careful blah blah blah” way. She found problems, found improvable areas, and found good stuff that could be better highlighted. Have I argued about some of the changes? Of course! In fact, to one tremendous change, I replied, “Absolutely not.”

Here’s the difference: I agreed with the editor that she’d found a problem area. I didn’t agree with her solution. Four days later, I found a better one. It was more work than either of her two proposed solutions. I didn’t care: it was also more fulfilling, truer to the spirit of the novel, and it simultaneously addressed another issue she’d raised. I’m hoping that when she reads what I’ve done with chapter three, she’ll say, “Jane, I love you!”  🙂  (I really do wonder if she’s reading here…)

I’ve had to merge two minor characters into one character. I’ve had to clarify someone’s motivation (although that’s going to need to be re-clarified more on the next go-around.)  I’ve had to argue about something I don’t think should be changed. And you know what? It’s fun. It’s fulfilling. Watching the book transform is just as awesome as it was to write the book in the first place.

I do reserve the right to gripe about it, still.


  1. MysteryNurse

    I’m sure this is too obvious a comparison to be a really clever comment, but I’d have said editing was more like purgatory.

    1. philangelus

      Maybe for the manuscript it feels like purgatory.

      1. MysteryNurse


  2. Ken Rolph

    I think that the final massage of a piece of writing into proper shape is the most satisfying actvity of the whole process. I find the getting together of the initial ingredients a bit nerve wracking. You don’t know whether you’ll get enough of the right stuff. But when it is downt here in some sort of mass it becomes like kneading dough to bring it all together. You even have a rise phase where you leave the leaven to work. I find that editing is one of the activities that can induce that state they call “flow” in me.

    I was editing once and a naked woman draped herself in the doorway and asked if I was coming to bed. I said just a minute, I needed to finish something. Then I did go to bed, I’m pretty sure almost immediately. But it seemed strangely light in the hallway, like it was the dawn. My pillow and pyjamas were outside the bedroom door.

    I find I can handle fictional worlds, but real life is much more mysterious.