Tools for Novel Writers: The Fruits of Editing

apple-treeEditing Fruits

In the title for this post, I don’t mean “the fruits of editing” in the usual sense of “the results.” Instead, I’m thinking of an expression I hear in the day-job world a good bit: “let’s go after the low-hanging fruit first.” What this means is that when you’re resolving a business issue that has many facets, it’s often best to fix the easiest things first and the proceed to the more complicated stuff.

As I work on the near-final edit of my first novel, I’m discovering the fruit-tree analogy works pretty well in the fiction-writing biz, too.

I have a list of about a hundred items that need to be fixed to make the novel its best. These are categorized as fruit, which is odd, I guess, but more fun than just calling them high, medium and low.

Low-hanging Fruit:

The low-hanging fruit are things I can fix pretty quickly, without much heavy head-scratching. For example, there’s a location called “Angels’ Common.” I needed to be sure I called it that every time, and not “Angels’ Courtyard” by mistake. That was a simple matter of search-and-replace in Microsoft Word.

Halfway Up the Fruit Tree:

Halfway up the tree are items that take some thought and creativity to fix, but aren’t likely to make me bang my head against the wall. For example, my protagonist, who is a guy with his body in a coma and his soul caught in Hell, has a brother back on Earth. I got a lot of feedback indicating that I needed some more scenes with the brother, to bring a wider variety of emotions to the book, or, as one person said, “to give it heart.” So, I’m going through and adding some scenes. It’s a moderate effort to figure out where the scenes should go and then I have to write them, but the job isn’t a killer.

Way Up in the Top Branches:

High up among the skinny branches of the tree, where my perch is the most precarious, are the things that will be hardest to correct, like plot holes. One case is a contradiction I didn’t spot until I did a read-through of the whole novel. Remember how the protagonist’s body is in a coma, while his soul is in Hell? Well, at one point in the novel, Satan wants to destroy the protagonist’s body because soul-protagonist is too powerful and killing the body will weaken him. At another point, Satan is thrilled that soul-protagonist has a body on Earth because it makes him more powerful and thus more useful to Satan (assuming Satan’s nefarious plan works out). The whole body-on-Earth deal is a linchpin of the plot, so I’ve got to figure out how to resolve the contradiction without weakening the story. I am hoping that a solution will come to me as I fix the low-hanging and halfway-up issues.

Divide and Conquer

Whether you buy the whole fruit analogy or not, I strongly recommend dividing your editing work into some sort of layers. Writing a novel is complex and editing one, I’m finding, is even more so. Whatever you can do to ease your path on the way do “The (finally all edited and done) End” is worth a try.

Leave a comment about handy editing practices for the benefit of the other readers. Happy writing!

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