Editing your work is more important than the writing

People think that getting the words down on the page in the most important and largest part of writing a book. In my experience they are wrong. If you split the writing of a book into three main parts, then I see the percentage of time and energy spent on each falling into something like the following -

1 Coming up with the plans and ideas (15%)

2 Writing the book (40%)

3 Editing the book (45%)

The editing of a book is hugely important and often overlooked. People go through the NaNoWriMo experience and if they stick to it then they may walk away with the core of a book. But it won’t work in the same way as a finished book. There will be plot holes, there will be gaps that the reader cannot fill and continuity errors. You may describe someone as having blonde hair in one scene and the same character with red hair in the next. Don’t sweat it — this is all part of writing a book.

And this is where editing is so important. You will read back through the book and take notes. You will wonder if some parts flow well or if others don’t actually add anything at all to your story. Your decisions here will determine what the final book looks like — not the writing that came before it. You will pick up typos and find the areas that need more attention. Writing a great book is all in the editing. Keep editing until you are completely happy with the outcome. This may take several re-reads and edits before you get it into the right place. This is your work and something that you will most likely release for others to read once it is finished — you want it to be perfect.

My first novel David’s Goliath by Steven Thompson has been out for around a month now and is selling well on Amazon. It went through several levels of editing to get it into the place I wanted it to be. I deleted whole sections and replaced them with something new because I wanted it to feel just right. Here is a part that went through a lot of editing -

It was while I was working here that I started to sing my way through the day. It wasn’t intentional at first but it was something that I suddenly stopped and found myself doing. If I used a spatula in the well-stocked staff canteen then a few minutes later I would stop what I was doing to find myself singing along to my own version of the Cliff Richard classic…
‘Son you are a spatula boy,
And that’s the way you’ll stay,
Son you’ll be a spatula boy,
Until your dying day’
I thought that it might be a one off the first time that I noticed it and that it was just because I was tired (and boy was I tired) but it happened again and again and it still happens to this day.
David couldn’t stop laughing. This was something that he had even tried to eliminate from his life by thinking clearly and going through all his actions in his head but he hadn’t been able to stop from singing the most obscure tunes relating to the most mundane things that happened in his life. Only that morning he had caught himself singing and it took several minutes of deep thought to realise whey he had a James Bond theme song in his head.
‘…He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch
A spider’s touch
Such a cold finger
Beckons you to enter his web of sin
But don’t go in
Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can’t disguise what you fear
For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her
It’s the kiss of death from…’
David racked his brain for what might have started this repeat song going through his brain every few minutes without any control on his behalf. It took hours to realise that he had passed a crane belonging to the company Palfinger earlier that day. That was enough to start the madness.
And it went on. The simplest songs would go around and around in his head until he could bear it no longer. Every time David had to track back through his day to see what event sparked the ridiculous song that he was now reciting, often from the 1980’s and his childhood. He couldn’t get out of the habit of having one song or another spinning round on constant play in his mind that had been triggered by a seemingly innocuous event earlier that day. It could have been much worse. He often thought that he needed help. He thought back to a time when he went out with a girl who called him ‘babe’ all the time. He felt at the time like he was forever stuck in a Take That song. Spatula Boy paled into insignificance against that. He was back again. Where had he been?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. It read very differently the first time.

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