I have a much harder time editing my books than writing them. Mostly, I think it’s because I have to move paragraphs around and shuffle things around. This stresses me out to no end.
I happen to be a very linear writer. I begin at the beginning and write until the story is completed. My wife often times writes scenes out-of-order and builds the story around them. I can relate to this as a musician because many of my songs have a completed chorus before I begin working on the verses. I don’t mind working backwards with a piece of music, but fiction just has so many damn WORDS.
As much as possible it’s important to always work on the same document, but just like train yards have run off track, sometimes you’ll need a blank page to just store your unassigned segments. I believe that as long as you feel like you’re not forgetting or losing anything, you’ll have the peace of mind to work without too much tummy angst. It works for me.
Sometimes, I just want to be lazy and avoid any cut and paste scenarios, but if I work slow and use a run off track, I can make my changes and keep my sanity.
I am fascinated with authors who can write the endings of their books first. Part of me admires the skill and part of me worries that they aren’t benefitting from all the character and plot developments that become so important.
Still, I bet it was nice for J.K. Rowling to know ahead of time that she had her shit together, and I gotta respect that.
Making an outline is a fantastic way to keep you from getting too dizzy when you’re writing or editing your manuscript, and it will greatly assist you when you are putting a summary together (which you will eventually have to do if you publish).
That summary will be a lifeline when you’re story is ripped open like a toy poodle in a tiger cage and you’re wondering if you are ever going to get Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Not every story needs to be re-worked in this way, but having the ability and the fearlessness to go that deep to assist your novel will strengthen the work and present the story in the best possible way.
I keep thinking of all the ways Quentin Tarantino could have cut Pulp Fiction together. Beginning half way through and then catching us up worked great, but many movies begin at the very ending and tell the story in a series of flashbacks. Many more cut things seemingly randomly until things start to make sense.
Books are the same way, they can be manipulated to tell the story in a particular order, or from a certain point of view until you want additional information to be introduced.
Again, I like things a bit more simple, but don’t want to deny any of my books the chance to get better. So I take a deep breath and start picking apart those scenes that need extra TLC.
Fortunately for me, I have a talented and patient writing partner who can perform these acts of insanity and come out smelling like a cinnamon bun. You may also have these attributes, but you won’t know until you try.
Also, you should learn how to make cinnamon buns.