Advice, Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Tips, Words, Writing

Blinded by the words

As I near the end of my final pre-agent editing round, I fear I am only tinkering. Not long ago, one of my critique partners warned me to beware of editing “just to make it different, not better.” I think I’m at that point now.

Five fellow writers have read and critiqued this entire novel. I’ve made many positive changes based on their feedback. This final polish round was necessary, and as far as I’ve kept to minor edits, I feel confident that the changes are positive. But new ideas keep coming to me. I wonder if I should add this layer, or whether this could be the real reason he did that, or shouldn’t she be thinking about this here? Am I enhancing or confusing the plot?

The problem is, I’m blind to my own words now. I could put it away for a while, not look at it, but I’ve done that with individual sections (it’s written in three parts) and it made no difference. I can’t forget the story I’ve written.

So I add a few sentences … and then I take them out. I write a whole chapter showing a different level to this character’s conflict and then I decide it adds nothing. I make notes on where I need to change this bit of dialogue or the action in this scene to reflect this new aspect of the character’s personality and then decide that’s just silly.

I know I’m not the only one who fears over editing. Jennifer Neri’s recent post reflects a similar worry. I think it’s time for me to stop mucking about. A new virtual writer friend has volunteered to read this novel and give me feedback. I’m interested to see if any of the parts she advises me to cut are my recent twiddlings.

What about you? Do you ever feel you may be editing the life out of your work?

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31 thoughts on “Blinded by the words”

  1. I wrote a short story and I changed the opening line 200 times. It was submitted for a major short story writing competition in the country where I’m living. Even on the morning of the deadline, I was still changing the opening line.

    The story was shortlisted and the opening line I retained was the very first line I drafted.
    Yes sometimes you have stop editing .

    http://e6n1.blogspot.com/

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    1. That would be going with your gut instinct, I think. I’ve reworked the opening paragraph of this novel too many times to count, and recently I submitted different versions to my critique group and one member picked my original as the best. Right now, my first paragraph is none of the versions I showed them.

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  2. I’m currently listening to my gut. I made a resolution to start querying ten agents a month beginning Jan, but alas, that has not happened. Something told me to put it away, start a new novel, write some short stories — submit them — then come back to it. Sure it puts my resolution on hold, but it feels like the right thing to do, and right now, I’m listening to what feels right rather than what I planned. It’s hard, either way.

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