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Editing and a return to fiction

Dragonlady

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I've had a number of years away from my fiction writing, but have just returned to the novel I drafted when I was 18, now I'm in my 30s. I now have enough insight to begin editing. Does anyone have any good tips or references for editing? I know it's the hardest part.

I've had a realisation in the intervening years that it's the people stuff that I'm good at, I have so many ideas the issue is what not to write....
 

AlexH

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I found this thread very helpful: Editing Tips Needed

It's interesting looking at it a year+ later, as I find some of the things second nature now, whereas it was all a giant blur.

Considering you drafted the novel over 12 years ago, I think it may be worth rewriting parts of it completely, and seeing how that compares to other parts you edit. I went back to something I wrote in my early 20s about ten years later and found it was easier to rewrite than edit as my writing had changed so much (then editing after the rewrite was much easier).
 

HareBrain

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I wouldn't necessarily go back to the earlier novel just because you have fond memories of it or it seems easier than starting a new thing from scratch. We're very different people at 30-something compared to 18. Ask yourself if you still connect with it in a deep enough way -- if you can't, you might not be able to address its flaws in the editing process.

I have a friend who, at 26, spent ages trying to rework a novel he wrote in his mid-teens, and in the end he just had to accept that he'd moved on too far to revise it in a way that felt satisfying. He's now much happier writing a completely different story (with one of the same characters).

That's not to say you shouldn't go back to the original, of course, just that it should be a conscious decision rather than a default.
 
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Brian G Turner

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I have so many ideas the issue is what not to write....
Welcome back!

I would echo HB's advice, though - older pieces can require a complete rewrite, rather than an edit. Not just of the wording, but also the character development and concepts - all of which can make it a lot harder than simply writing a new story from scratch. You can re-use what you like the most. :)
 

Dragonlady

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Thanks all! I'll bear that all in mind. At the moment I'm reading it through and adding comments to reaquaint myself with it and details of the world. I have a number of other ideas at the moment, in the same world, some using the same characters - I've written a short romance type story involving a side character. I'llh ave to see how my thoughts progress on the read through. At the moment I'm writing journal style - either picking up an old thread or continuing a new one, but just making sure I write something as close to every day as I can, to get the juices flowing and get back in practise.
 

mistri

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What I've done before when faced with editing a really old idea is to have it open on one screen and start it completely from scratch in another, so you can take inspiration and flavour but put in your current writing style.
 

Biskit

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As everyone else has said, re-write.
I tried resurrecting an old novel a few years back, just a quick edit and ready to go, I thought. By the time I got to the end, I had to start again because the more I got into it, the more flaws I found. After the second editing pass I could see the overall problems clearly enough to realise that a re-write was the only way.
 

Dragonlady

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I have found a great big plot hole (which can be solved) and am getting itchy fingers, think I will try the rewrite in a separate document method.
 

drmatteri

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If you are still looking for good editing resources, then I would recommend finding a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King. It has solid advice on how to spot and fix mistakes with pacing, dialogue mechanics, voice, and other bits.

I'm in the process of plotting a series of fantasy novels that I started in my teens as well. The story has evolved and changed over time, but the characters have remained the same. Best of luck!
 

Jondo_

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I have found a great big plot hole (which can be solved) and am getting itchy fingers, think I will try the rewrite in a separate document method.
A little late here, but if you're already planning to rewrite here's what I like to try and do:

Take your general understanding of the story. Take the best moments you've written, take the things you like the most and the character interactions that feel best to you. Then, imagine they've all just come to you as a new idea and write a plot summary, taking the time to really chart stuff out as though you haven't ever written this before.
Once you have an idea of what you really want to happen, you can use the old draft to fill that in. What can you salvage? What must you trash? What will you need to rewrite? It's easier to see if you know exactly what your endgame is.

I'm not a detailed plotter before I write first drafts, and often I step away from stuff I've written in bursts for as long as a year before really getting into the editing, so this is what I've found useful in turning those old manuscripts (particularly the ones you feel a little distant from) into something smoother and ready to pitch and submit. But maybe that's just me.
 

Dragonlady

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Thanks Jondo! At the moment I'm liking the original structure and rewriting much of the detail but I will consider your approach
 

Cory Swanson

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It's really interesting to hear what other people do. It makes me feel so haphazard. If at all possible, I do like to let it sit and stew for a while. My biggest things tend to be organizational. I'll realize when I'm rereading that I should have started the story at a more exciting point.

Also, read things out loud or have someone read it out loud to you. You can catch so many problems this way. If someone stumbles, your sentence is probably awkward. If you repeat the same word too many times, you'll never see it, but you'll sure hear it. Even things that are annoyingly alliterative.

Also, write enough that you're willing to throw things away. Even if you love something, maybe nobody else does. It's sad, but your trunk will be filled with stories that you really love that didn't connect with anyone else. I still loved writing them, but I have to admit sometimes that something wasn't right for the readers.
 
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