When Novel Editing Goes Right

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a not particularly interesting post about editing. Between work and everything else, the last few weeks since that has seen a very determined version of me ploughing through all of my written material on Salmonweird to give it a bit of a spruce.

Usually, the process is enough to fill the average writer with complete and utter dread. We don’t like doing it but it’s something we know we have to do, a bit like the washing up after a really good meal, or taking down the Christmas decorations in early January. But I can say that the current edit of Salmonweird that I have just complete is one of the most satisfying edits I’ve ever carried out. But why?

importance of editing to a novelist

I Fleshed Out Some Characters

I have a lot of characters for a novel that is presently just 53,000 words long and some of them felt underused, little more than incidental characters. I always wanted to do more with them. I’ve given depth to some characters who had perhaps received a little less air time than the others. By simply extending conversations or including characters in incidents that they were not previously a part of, it’s really helped enrich the world in which they live and developed some interpersonal relationships.

There Are New Scenes

I’ve written three complete new scenes and slotted them into the narrative. Each has given a little more context to events or aided enhancing depth to some of my characters. They’ve also served as nice little time-outs to pull together the thoughts of the protagonist. In the unedited version, he simply went from place to place and conversation to conversation. I’ve added him doing general stuff about the village, interacting with incidental characters and adding to the layout of the village, giving it life.

Enhanced Sub Plots

A novel is not a novel without sub-plots. Although I have two or three, in the old version they weren’t quite as full-bodied as they could be. That has changed now and they have a little more point to them. I’ve added a few tantalising hints as to one of the sub-plots, although I do feel that some of them still need a little more work. That’s for a future edit now that I have all this extra material.

A Sense of Place For Salmonweir

I’ve used a fictional village for the novel, but from the start I knew exactly where it was. If anybody knows Cornwall, it’s on the Land’s End Peninsula (West Penwith), along the south coast between Treen and Lamorna. I’ve been down to Land’s End, although I hadn’t at the time of creating the first chapter in summer 2015. What I was not always clear about was the topography of the village. Now it is clearer as discussed in this blog post about the Cornish landscape. The biggest changes have been to the description of the village, including the location of the church, the pub, the shop and the car park. I’m a real map nerd so it was always important to me that I could “see” Salmonweir from a bird’s eye view.

More Natural Dialogue

Although I don’t struggle with dialogue, I do sometimes feel that conversations between my characters often cover only what needs to be said to move the plot forward. People don’t do that in real life. There’s small talk, chit chat, uncomfortable pauses, tangents and so on. Too many of the conversations before this edit simply ended without context. I feel they flow much better now and feel much more natural.

That’s obviously not going to be the end of my editing adventures, but I felt it was time for an update. To have edited so much in such a short space of time, I feel, makes me realise just how well this project is coming along and how clear it is in my mind. I’ve already written the final chapter, including the crime revelations of who, how and why. I wrote that as soon as I’d finished writing chapter 2 and had my list of main characters plotted out.

2 thoughts on “When Novel Editing Goes Right

  1. andfreed

    Editing is a huge undertaking but sounds like it’s paying off for you. Thanks for another very helpful post and best of luck with your continued editing adventures.

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