Down To Earth, a sci-fi/thriller was ‘finished‘ about a year and a half ago. I ended up procrastinating on the ending for a time, before writing the last five chapters by hand. In real terms, only the first draft was done. There’s a naive punch-the-air moment you get when the ‘last’ full stop is written/typed. I should have known better…
I’d previously ‘finished’, The Red Coffin, a memoir of travelling around the world by horse and caravan for seven years with my family, so should have been savvy not to get too excited by a first draft having edited that numerous times, and still not happy with it to this day (the next project).
A stagnation period is recommended by some before going back to edit, and definitely helps, however having disconnected for over a year, especially in fiction, I found it tough to get back into the swing of the story, the characters, plot etc. But I am finally editing DTE a third time, having highlighted grammaticals, punctuation, and story inconsistencies.
And holy shit, it’s a time consuming process. This time around I’m trying to be super critical in terms of the story. I tend to write quite sparsely, so I’m adding in colour, as in little details to scenes to bring them to life. Maybe it’s just describing a room in greater scale, adding personality traits, or describing how someone looks, perhaps only a few extra words to add fullness. To put it in perspective it took me about five hours to edit fourteen pages.
Temporal/story world consistencies need straightened out too; if it was early morning for Chapter 5, how is Chapter 7 ahead yet meant to be concurrent? When helicopters arrived there were five of them, then only three are ever mentioned later. And of course…the plot holes that made absolute sense first time around, suddenly hit home like a manuscript to the face and before you know it earlier chapters become like black cancerous horrors you don’t want to go near, because adjusting them, means having to rehaul later sections and pulling the laptop screen down, closing it, temporarily erases that issue, which I have to say is the absolute most frustrating, maddening, part especially if the chapter or section reads great but needs to be chopped or hugely altered.
Anyway with all that said, I’m aiming to have DTE ‘beta ready’ by the end of April which will be a relief more than anything.
So if you want a take home message (eugghh, I hate that phrase…yet I’m not deleting it?! lol) from an unpublished author try not to take too long between editing phases. There’s an inevitable discord that happens. Characters that were once prominent in your thoughts disappear. Plot ideas and changes rarely cross the mind. I wrote DTE steadily on a daily basis so the world came to life and there was that connection, I was in the zone, but it went away quite quickly for me, so try and stay on a project as much as possible, returning to it will be much much easier, less foreign.