Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Editing never ends

Being out of commission over the last four weeks because of "extreme motion sensitivity," I've been spending a fair bit of time on a special project... editing the novel that took me almost five years to write. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I've been editing for nearly that long... this book will soon be my "decade project." It began in November of 2002, and I'm hoping it will be published by November of 2012!

I really enjoyed the process of writing the story in fits and starts when my girls were young. Editing has happened in fits and starts, too. It took six months for me to get brave enough to even print my novel and share it around, asking for feedback. Then it took a while to gather the feedback and do rewrites. At that point, I gave the manuscript to a friend who was trained as an editor, and she suggested I get rid of the passive voices that I had worked so hard to cultivate (so that they could become active at a critical moment in the story). Her suggestion meant that every page needed major adjustments, and that took several months... but my friend's suggestion was bang on. Passive voice? What was I thinking?

From there, the story improved so much that I offered it to a special inner-city foundation, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation... and an impromptu "book club" associated with CEASE read it and invited me to receive their feedback. That led to more edits, and by then I was convinced that I had a worthwhile project on my hands, so I mailed it to a publisher. I waited... with excitement... for eight months... for a rejection letter.

But I haven't given up. I've gone through the story many times, cutting out a bit more excess with every pass, sometimes entire paragraphs or pages -- a couple of minor characters have vanished entirely. My novel started at 210,000, and now it's down to 175,000 words. This present round of editing has shown me that there isn't much left to cut, so it's probably as ready as it will ever be for publication, short of hiring a professional editor with money that I don't have. Now the plan is to read it aloud to make sure that it flows, find some funding (wish me luck!) and publish it, all proceeds to CEASE. But first, CEASE's Executive Director, my friend Kate, needs to write an Introduction.

What's been interesting in this process is that I've discovered that editing can be almost as much fun as writing... and that I've developed a bit of an impatience with excess words wherever I find them (including the new translation of the Roman Missal, but that may be another moodling). Advertizing is particularly bad for poor wording; half the time it isn't even good English! News articles in the paper or on the internet have never contained so many glaring errors, and Facebook? Forget about it! I've become something of a stickler for good grammar, and can spot a misplaced modifier in a jiffy (I hope I've fixed all of mine). I know all about the passive voice and how it can slow down a story, and I've discovered that I'm a plain story teller, not a poet. 

For a while there, it looked like the editing process would never end. I suppose it doesn't for people who love to write. There will always be some project that needs work (I could edit my moodlings, right?)... but I've come to the end of my patience for this novel. It's been a real gift to create it. Though it's far from perfect, it's a pretty amazing story that I'm guessing is much improved, and the whole process has been exciting and worth a mint to my development as a writer. Hopefully, it will be valuable to CEASE, too. Watch this space for updates.


  1. I cannot wait! How very exciting for you!

  2. It will be wonderful to be able to share this "Magnum Opus."


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