I may have had reservations at the start, but I’m getting seriously into this editing malarkey now. I’m really beginning to appreciate the value of clarifying and simplifying what had become a fairly complex set of inter-weaving stories.
It isn’t always easy to delete sentences, or even whole passages, that you may have worked hard over during the writing stage, but I’m being quite ruthless. This has been made easier by the knowledge that the first draft is still there; saved on my hard drive, and on a backup too. However much I cut up and re-work the current version, the first draft will still be there, pristine, unblemished; preserved for posterity. I still have belief in my first draft. I still believe that, aside from a few minor corrections, if all memory of it could be erased from my mind and I were to then read it, I would appreciate it for what it is; a complete and effective novel. And I believe there are many readers out there who would feel the same way were they to read it. But at the same time, I can see where I’ve made mistakes – explained too much, used language that’s too fussy, put in too much detail (or in some cases, not enough). I can see places where I’ve not been clear about the progression of the story, or the purpose that an event, meeting, description or comment plays in it. So I’m confidently re-working, re-writing, cutting (in some cases, cutting out whole sections), secure in the knowledge that it’s all still there, safe and sound in my saved first draft, in the unlikely event that I change my mind.
I’m finding ways, I think, of making the book more slick; easier to follow and understand. I’m reinforcing clues as to what’s going on, and how apparently unrelated scenes interconnect. Maybe I’ll end up making it all too obvious for some readers. I hope not. I’m stream-lining, but I don’t want to make it too easy. I believe that an author shouldn’t do all the work themselves – they need to leave something for the reader to do. I think there are two books. The first is what comes out of my head and lands on the page. The second is what comes off the page and, through subjective interpretation, ends up, reformatted, in the head of the reader. Leastways, that’s how I read (when I get the chance to read; when all my free time isn’t taken up with writing). The printed version of the book belongs to the author, but the interpretation of it belongs to the reader, and is unique to each and every reader.
The editing is taking some time, but I’d rather make sure it’s right than risk compromising the final draft by rushing it. I’m going to be too late for this year’s Man Booker, but this time next year… who knows?