I spend more time editing a novel than writing it. Writing is done in a fit of passion, fingers flying furiously over the keyboard as I create heart-palpitating dialogue and brilliant flash-bang action that is never as good as I think it is. It’s sort of like a first date with an absolutely gorgeous human being who is funny and wise and wonderful – only not. What I might have seen in a sultry, shadowy bar after two glasses of wine is not what I face in the light of day. The sooner I acknowledge that, the better.
Editing is the day after the first date. It is addressed with objectivity, reserve, and grave consideration of the future of my novel. Okay, maybe it's not as grave as assessing a man the morning after a first date but I’m darn serious about it. It’s taken me years to discipline myself and admit that my writing is never publishable after the first - or even third - go-round. In fact, it’s so hard to be objective that I made a list of bottom-line, life-and-death edits, so that I wouldn’t be seduced by my own pretty phrase, an arrogant word, or ridiculous scenario.
Here are the 6 edits I can’t live without (and neither should you).
1) Same Word Edit: If you use the same word over and over, learn a new one. Words lose their potency just like spices. It is sort of like whining, after a while it’s just another high-pitched sound.
2) The Thesaurus Edit: Don’t use big words, vague words, or unusual names. Readers will trip over them, be upset that you are taking them out of the story, and, worse, that you made them feel stupid. A book is like a float down a river, you never want a reader to run aground.
3) The Logical Movement Edit: Move characters from point A to point B with sensible purpose and the story the same way. If you don’t, the reader will be puzzled and spend more time wondering how things happened rather than accepting that they happened.
4) Love or Lust Edit: Characters make love if there’s reason to be in love. Be clear about why your characters deserve to be cherished and admired. If they are just in lust, be clear about that too. The two ‘L’ words should never be confused.
5) I’m Tired Edit: Readers can tell when an author gets tired. Step away and recharge. Come back at it in full form.
6) The Consistency Edit: A character must stay in character, details build a scene, red herrings need to be revisited and wrapped up. Life in a novel should be tidy at the end even if it’s a marvelous mess of storytelling.