Editing: Sometimes More Work Now Means Less Work Later
Even though writing The Good for Nothings was about a billion times more difficult than writing my first book, The Supervillain and Me, I was pleasantly surprised to find that editing it was about a billion times easier.
Years ago, when I was a baby writer, I used to be pretty good at pantsing my way through a first draft. I’d type up some short character bios, plan out about one or two chapters ahead of what I was currently writing, and then I’d just go for it. Usually I was happy with the results, but when you’ve signed a contract and are working on a deadline, you can’t exactly “just go for it” anymore.
So for TGfN, I made a giant outline and had a twenty-five page word doc full of possible scenes I wanted to include, snippets of dialogue, etc. I did so much plotting ahead of sitting down to write that a large portion of my ideas never even made it into the story. But on the plus side, all the plotting I did made for a much tighter draft that my editor, Emily Settle, and I didn’t have to rip to shreds as much as I feared we would.
For my first book, I had to switch and cut a ton of chapters (which inevitably messes up the sequence of events in several more chapters; it’s a vicious circle), and I changed around multiple character arcs. Editing TGfN was tame in comparison. The most time-consuming things I had to do this time were: make some small adjustments to my main characters regarding their home planets (ICYMI, this story has a ton of quirky aliens), add some elements to a really fun prison scene near the beginning of the story, rename a junky spaceship (which is surprisingly harder than it sounds), add a few scenes near the climax (because originally it was ridiculously rushed), and finally… cut out two characters who honestly had no business existing in the first place (Bordas and Buck, may you rest in peace).
I know that some of those things may sound overwhelming, but compared to all of the reorganization and adjustments that I had to do with The Supervillain and Me, editing The Good for Nothings was actually very painless. Either I’ve gotten better at addressing constructive criticism this time around—contrary to popular belief, no one’s book is perfect haha—or maybe my excessive plotting paid off. I still love pantsing my stories. I think it’s fun and keeps the story from feeling stale, but there’s a lot to be said for doing a large chunk of the work up front and having an easier and more enjoyable editing experience later.