Heatwave crisis, editing non-crisis

by SJ Griffin

It’s hot here today. It was almost as hot yesterday. Tomorrow it’s going to be hotter than it is in many places including Hell. Obviously, this means that public transport is about to grind to a halt. It doesn’t work in the rain, the wind, the fog or the snow so you can bet your bum it’s not going to work in the sun. Oh no, sir. I don’t work in the sun either. Which is also through choice. Roads are going to melt. Roads! Melting! I’m not sure why we made them out of cheese but it maybe seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anyway, to writing. Yes, gentle reader? This is supposed to be a writing blog after all and all I seem to have done recently is chunter about politics and other trifles. I shall not mention these things today. Instead I shall have mention-itis on the subiject of editing your draft. And by yours, I mean mine.

Did I tell you that I rewrote my whole first draft so that it could become a second draft instead of a hideous, terrible mutant alien-beast? Well, I did. I rewrote the whole damn thing and I have to say it’s a whole lot better. That was a relief. Can you imagine if I had to rewrite the whole thing again. That’s the kind of thing that ends up on a therapist’s couch, before it ends up in a bottom drawer covered in dust.

For my third draft I have decided to not do what I usually do. That is to fix all the big issues and leave the little ones. Big issues would be inserting something into chapter four so that that bit in chapter seven makes sense. Little things is the ordder in which the words appear. They get fixed in the fourth draft. I do at least eight drafts. Good job I’m not a brain surgeon. Or a gynacologist.

This time I will be treating the book as though it is two books, and that the second of those book is made up of five books. I know, right. Baffling. I have a very nice, colour coded draft which seperates all the sections out. Rather like William Faulkner. There is a book about ‘family’, one about ‘Rowan’, one about ‘Steph’, one about ‘detecting’ and some others that make even less sense if you are not me. In practise it means that when I am editing ‘family’ I will ignore chapter one altogether, edit the whole of chapter two, piece of the following chapters, excluding twelve which I will ignore. Then I will go back and do chapter one, representing ‘Rowan’, and pieces of chapters up to six and not beyond apart from a very short section in chapter eleven. And so on. It’s that kind of book.

The point of this is to say: we have all read those books, I suspet, that tell you how to eit your book. Sol Stein probably wrote one. I bet Anne Lamont has lovely things to say about it, I love her. She is a hot chocolate and a blanket in human form. What I am telling you here, however, is that you do what you want, what feels right for you. And if you have spent some time with your book, which you will have, you will know what to do, be brave. Maybe Sol is right, Anne is 93.79% of the time. But I bet you are most right of all.