Swoon Author Tiana Smith's Editing Update: It Gets Worse Before It Can Get Better
I always thought the hardest part about writing a novel would be the first draft.
And then I got my edit letter.
It was so long it took me almost ten minutes to read. It tackled some huge changes and required me to rework a foundational part of my manuscript.
Cool, cool, I got this, I thought.
Oh, how wrong I was. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, writing-wise, and I’m not just saying that to be funny. It. Was. Excruciating. I finished the first round—after much brainstorming with CPs, eating copious amounts of ice cream, and generally pretending EVERYTHING’S FINE, NOTHING TO SEE HERE. I turned it in and felt immense relief.
Then I got the second round.
I thought I’d have less work to do this time around, but HA HA HA HA, joke’s on me. Some of my edits created other problems. Maybe the second round was *slightly* less work, but there was still a comment on almost every single sentence of my manuscript. I’m not just being dramatic.
Then there was a third round.
And a fourth.
At one point, I asked some other Swoon authors, “Is it normal to hate everything about your book?” And the answer was, yes, yes it was.
Things started to come together. With the first round, there were still so many pieced-together novel bits and seams poking through. It felt like Frankenstein’s monster. But with each round of edits, those seams smoothed out and melted into the overall picture. I had to rip my novel apart before I could put it back a different way.
I’ve discovered editing a book is a lot like cleaning a room. It will look even messier (as you take things out of containers, rearrange things and kick up a lot of dust) before it can look its best.
Each edit isn’t taking steps forward. Sometimes making one change will destroy everything in a later chapter. Even once you fix that later chapter, you might have to go back and change everything in the beginning again. It might seem easier to just fix the surface problems.
But here’s the thing, you have to take the chance. Big edits are scary. And hard. I totally get that. It’s much easier to stick to the little ones, change a few sentences, maybe shake up a character a little bit, and call it a day. But unless you rip it open and perform real surgery, the kind that takes weeks or months to recover from, it will never be its best self. Editing isn’t something that can be done in a couple of days.
Editing is rewriting.
I’ll repeat it again, for the people in the back. Editing is rewriting.
And that’s actually a good thing.