2020 Novel-Editing Challenge!

Over the winter holidays, I made a pledge to myself that I would be disciplined about editing my novel in 2020! Here’s a quick update:

I’ve re-read the novel.

I took a deep breath and dove in. I think it was helpful that I’d taken some time off from working on the novel. It allowed me to take a much-needed step back.

While large sections of the novel made me cringe, I was also happy to find some stuff that wasn’t completely terrible. Along the way, I made a list of specific themes, scenes, and character relationships I wanted to build upon. While re-reading, I also asked myself:

  • “What is the purpose of this scene? How does it serve the story?” If it didn’t serve the story, I tried to figure out why and identify what the scene could do to become relevant and move the plot along.
  • “What is missing here?” Does the scene need more sensory detail, world-building, character development, etc.?

I’ve set aside 2+ hours per week, so far, to make edits.

Asking the two questions above helped me rewrite two key scenes in one sitting! I feel like one rewrite supports my world-building needs much better than the original, and the other rewrite helps deepen and clarify a relationship between two important characters. I emailed the scenes to my beta reader, and he provided some great constructive feedback.

Other times, I’ve gone back through the novel and enhanced certain moments by identifying and drawing out the themes at play. Here’s a short list of potential themes I’ve jotted down for myself:

  • The allure of adventure and a new frontier
  • Partisanship
  • The sustaining power of family
  • Spectacle and scandal and the outsized role they sometimes play in government decisions

I’ve tried to identify which environments will help me be the most productive.

It’s been interesting experimenting with different writing/editing environments. Last year, I started out working from coffeeshops but ultimately found myself focusing better at home. This time, though — perhaps because I’ve been working from home a lot more than I did last year — I find it easier to get into a creative mood when I head out of the house.

Listening to music has also been really helpful. Some folks say they find music without lyrics most helpful for productivity. In my case, when I’m thinking about a particular character, sometimes it actually helps to listen to music with lyrics relevant to a particular feeling or situation.

I’m keeping potential challenges in mind.

I’m enjoying the process so far. I’ll need to work hard, though, at maintaining discipline and reminding myself to make this a priority. I currently have a long to-do list of things I want to accomplish (both at work and outside of work), and sometimes I get distracted or sidetracked by those items. It’s been hard to figure out how to make space and time for this project, but I always, always feel happier when I do.


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