As I work frantically towards finishing the first draft of my latest book, “Cruise Control”, I thought I would take a few minutes to rest my brain and explain a bit about the editing process of a book (or at least, my editing process, as everyone is different).
When I started writing this story, I had only the vaguest idea what it was about. I will talk about the inspiration in more detail at a later date, but basically I wrote the opening scene straight off the top of my head and went from there. The entire book was written in a fairly organic manner – I didn’t sit down and plot out the storyline before I started, I just wrote! Another chapter, and then another one. I would sit down at the laptop, read the previous chapter, and think about what might happen next in the lives of these characters. When I was about two-thirds of the way through the story and started building towards the climax, a plotline occurred to me that would make for a much more dramatic finale than I had anticipated. Excited, I started writing it, but found that the plotting was more intricate than I’d realised! I wrote the final scenes of the story, but left big gaps in the middle to be filled in at a later date.
Then I got sidetracked with other things (including the release of “Flying Changes”) and it was quite a while before I went back to “Cruise Control”. By this stage, I knew what was going to happen to Marley and Cruise, so the urgency to write had died away. But time ticked by and I realised that I was too attached to this story to let it sit on my laptop and not share it. I decided to finish it off, but when I went back to the file and started writing, I realised that the plotline I had planned wasn’t quite going to work. I had to rethink it, and that took a few weeks. And then I had to decide how to tell the story – how much information should I give? How many people’s perspectives should I provide? I wrote and deleted PAGES of text, trying to make the story continue at a good pace, and still struggling to get it to flow and make sense.
And then one day as I drove home from riding my horses, I had a breakthrough. I suddenly knew exactly what had to happen in the lead up to the big moment at the end of the book. I drove straight home and started writing. Now the ending worked better, and I saved the file with great satisfaction. I still had a few bits and pieces in the story that needed fine-tuning, but they wouldn’t take long. I decided to let the book ‘rest’ for a few days, and then go back and re-read what I’d last written once I had a bit more perspective on it.
But when I went back, I realised that while the ending is now a lot better, the lead-up to it no longer made sense. I had to go back and fix quite a bit of that, which led me to realise that I had to write an entirely new scene.
Okay, I could manage that. But now I was getting concerned about page count. At its fattest, “Cruise Control” was over 350 pages! I re-saved the file and several scenes that didn’t drive the story forward, or provide any new information to the reader. I got the page count down to 300 pages, but didn’t feel as though I could lose any more. This cutback forced me to take out one of my favourite scenes, but sometimes that’s just part of writing. (Of course, anything that I delete I simply cut and paste into a new file and resave – nothing is lost forever, and I would love to continue writing about these characters, so it all might come up in a later book.)
Now I felt like I was on the right track. I still had that scene to write that I mentioned earlier, but that wasn’t going to be too difficult, I hoped. I let the story rest while I mulled it over and searched for inspiration.
And then a couple of days ago, I decided to try something more drastic. I went on a deleting spree, ruthlessly cutting out parts of the story that I liked, but that didn’t contribute to the plot. Once Cruise arrives in Chapter 2, he needs to feature in every chapter. But there were whole chapters around Marley riding her other ponies, that really had no place in the story. So I culled them out. I deleted an entire pony, three horses and seven or eight tertiary characters, took out more scenes that weren’t related to Cruise, and suddenly “Cruise Control” was only 228 pages long.
Now I had room to re-insert that scene that I had loved. And I put back in another scene, although I trimmed it down significantly. And then I decided to cull it back further, and change the impact of one character. I can’t discuss this in too much detail without spoilers, but I think I’m on the right track.
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of edits to do…and I’m running out of time if I want the first draft completed before I go overseas next week! But I’m going to keep trying.
And so I’m going back to it…wish me luck!