20 Things I Learned as an Editor
By Bhalachandra Sahaj
Whoever says the most important thing about writing a novel is to finish writing it, don’t believe them. Finishing the first draft is just the beginning—let alone the search for a publisher, there is another huge task awaiting for you to accomplish: editing. Trust me, this is really big, given you’re not a genius who writes perfectly from scratch.
However, there is also a bright side to it: editing—especially editing a novel—is a chance to learn something new. Here is a brief list of what I’ve learned so far:
- You should always make a concept paper before starting your novel. It should contain the names of the main characters, locations, basic background events, and so on.
- The brighter ideas about your storyline you get after finishing it, the more you have to edit and rewrite afterwards.
- Names never sound okay.
- Breaches in logic, inconsistencies, and other flaws become easier to notice when you return to your writing after two months.
- Dialog never sound okay.
- Novels never sound okay either—to their authors, at least. If you are 100% satisfied with your writing, something is probably wrong.
- Sexual and romantic scenes can be made two times shorter than planned, right away—even if you major in writing soap operas or erotic stories.
- A big chunk of writing held at the same pace can be annoying.
- Lengthy monologues, when characters express their ideas as if they were lecturing students in Cambridge, looks stupid.
- The presentation of the main idea of your story should be subtle, almost transparent. Your readers should be able guess the main idea themselves.
- Editing can require more effort and psychological resources than writing.
- Explaining everything is a bad idea.
- On the contrary, places where you decide to not dig into details turn out to be the most intriguing and interesting.
- Female characters can be unnatural if you are a male author (I suppose the same refers to male characters and female authors).
- Even if decide to do some more editing after you finish editing your previous edit, there will still be something left to edit.
- You make a lot of mistakes.
- And most likely, you write horribly—at least in your first and second drafts.
- Editing is by all means not easier than writing—sometimes, the most crucial plot twists or unexpected solutions come into the author’s head while editing.
- Showing your work to other people while it’s still being edited is a bad idea—a good way to get discouraged and criticized, though.
- And finally: editing makes everything better!
Good luck with your writing, folks.