Editing The Old Mill

I hate editing.

A few of you may remember my serialized novel, The Old Mill, that I posted a little over two years ago.  After finishing the book I decided to put it on the back burner and work on other things for a while.  One problem is that there are a few similarities with my book The Halley Branch and I wanted to put some space between the two.  So the rough draft, which I had posted here, was sitting, gathering dust.  For some reason i couldn’t get the inspiration to pick it up again.  In my opinion, the hardest part of writing is doing the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. drafts.  The first draft is the easy, fun part.

A couple of weeks ago I picked it back up and started the next draft.  I haven’t made it very far….

The first thing I ran into had to do with names.  I changed the name of one character half way through and have already run into both versions of the name.  I don’t remember why I changed it and which is the final name.  I’m about 90% sure that I will have to make a third version of the name.  The problem is, a lot of names run in the main family of the book, so doing a search on the name is only partially helpful.  I may hit another character with the same name.

And that is the next problem.  The repetition of names isn’t all bad, but I did it too much.  I have charts and explanations and such, but it can be confusing.  I may have to change some of the other names.  To do that wouldn’t just be as simple as changing the names, but changing a lot of text about which generation we are talking about.  Is it the 1820 Margret or the 1920 Margret?  There are a lot of discussions on these things that would change.  A bad thing?  perhaps not, but it would change the feel of the book.

And then I found a hole which I am filling by adding two new characters, one a main character (not the main character).  Which of course means changes in almost every chapter.  Big changes.

And then there is the fact that too many women flirt with the main character.  It turns out that not as many do as it might seem at first, and much of it is for a reason, i.e., to manipulate the guy, but on the surface it would be easy to read the book in a way to make it seem a bit misogynistic.  So I need to figure out how to change it.  Do I remove a lot of the flirting, thus changing some major plot points?  How about showing where the main character misinterprets friendliness with flirting in a way obvious to the reader, so the reader knows that much of the flirting is in his mind, not the woman’s mind?  But then I don’t want him to be a jerk.  Maybe add more female characters who plainly and clearly do not flirt with him?  That way the few who seem to, for whatever reason, are exceptions, and often are doing it to manipulate him.  Maybe, but I already have a lot of characters…

Yuck.  I will have to change my editing style and perhaps do a 100% rewrite of the entire book.  Start from scratch.

But that’s not the worst of it.

The back story of the book is very important.  Super important.  In fact, in some ways the main plot is secondary to that back story.  Although it is not a mystery, in ways it is.  The main character is trying to solve a 200 year old cold case.That 200 year old cold case and the fall out for the family involved, which is just as important to the present day story, could be an entire book on its own.

So how do I tell that story?  It does have to be told.

As it stands, I have the main character befriending the head of the local historic society.  This guy is an expert in exactly the history we need to discover.  So there are chapters of the two of them talking.  The historian gives just the information needed to move the outside plot along, but it is still a lot of information. A huge amount of information.

In other words, these chapters with the historian become giant data dumps.

So how do I get the back story across without being a data dump?  I used a diary in The Halley Branch, so I don’t want to do that again.  Flash back chapters?  Those usually don’t work.  Adding it in a little at a time through discoveries and casual conversation, perhaps doubling the length of the book?  Hmmm.  I’m still not sure.

I really like the story and feel the whole thing is the best that I’ve written, even if it is still in very rough form.  But moving on from here just looks painful.

Can you see why I always dread editing and why I’ve avoided The Old Mill for so long?

I hate editing.

Oh well, back to it…

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Editing The Old Mill

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      For me, the the second draft is the hardest. The third is better, but then I start down that path you describe. By the time I go from drafting to copy editing for typos and such I hate, hate the book….

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  1. Gary A Wilson

    Trent – I will not presume to offer advice, but will say that this was one of my favorite reads from the growing list of things I’ve loved from your writing. I think it may be the voice and image of how this comes across, like a couple of writers, sharing coffee or wine and talking shop. I was tempted by several of your points to ask questions that I hope would stimulate live, face to face exploration and possibly ideas of solutions. The image and dynamic of one person using questions about a topic they know little of to trigger ideas in the mind of someone who does know a topic well has been one I’ve played with – and okay, will admit to being tempted by. Part of this art is the work of cleaning things up so it’s ready for public consumption. but sometimes it feels more like fighting your way through endless layers of thick spider webbing.Good hunting my friend.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks Gary. The second draft is always the hardest for me, the one with the most big decisions. the story is there, but… Yes, fighting through thick spider webbing, only to find brick walls in some areas and nice passages after clearing other areas. Other drafts can be like that – I think I was on the fourth draft of The Halley Branch when I made the decision to cut out a lot of the “data dump” and do it in diary entries. For the most part, though, after the second draft a lot of it is cleaning things up for public consumption.

      For a post like this, I like writing in a more conversational style. In ways that’s what it is, a bunch of us sitting down at a virtual table, chatting :)

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  2. Lisa Chesser

    It’s extremely frustrating to edit and know there’s something missing but to be unable to place it. I’m at the end of a script. I hate it. I put it down for three weeks and am avoiding it like that “friend” who likes to tell you like it is.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      “That ‘friend’ who likes to tell you how it is” exactly. I’ve been avoiding going back into The Old Mill, but I know I have to – I really like the story itself, but… Good luck with your script.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I think (hope) that once I get into it, it will start coming back to me and I’ll get into a groove again. Right now, uhm, no, it just looks like work ;)

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  3. Ocean Bream

    Sounds painful, and sounds exactly why I always always always put off editing for way too long until I have forgotten my entire story. But you’re doing well, because you’re being persistent! Good luck, I wish I had better advice but I am a crap editor!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I put this one off for way too long, so, yeah, it is hard getting back into the groove of it. At this point, being persistant is th eonly way to get it going. At some point I hope to get the groove back and have it flow a little more naturally, but… I’m not a very good editor, but I always try to get to that point where it feels as natural as it did in the first draft. Thanks!

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  4. dprastka

    I’m not a writer but I have a good friend who writes romance novels and is self published and is doing really well with all her books. She has shared her frustrations with editing and when she shares it sure sounds hard. I enjoyed reading your blog about all the difficulties. I hope you can sort it all out, as I’m sure you will eventually.😀

    I Love reading and have always thought it would be WONDERFUL to write, but I think it’s probably way more difficult than one would think, especially to write a really good book. So many genres to write about. It seems daunting. I am glad I found this blogging as it’s sorta like writing, but not really. 😜 At least it’s fun and am so happy I can include photos! ♥️ Happy writing!!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I don’t think there are many writers that enjoy the editing process. And every work is different. I think I have found more things that I want/need to fix earlier in the process with this one.

      Blogging is a type of writing. I’m sure you’ve seen that I post a lot of fiction on my blog. They are all first/rough drafts. A large part of what I’ve (self) publish was originally posted on the blog, or at least in rough draft form. I may do a half a dozen drafts before I start the detail editing (typos, misspellings, etc.)

      Thanks :)

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          Thanks! A lot of what I post here is almost stream of conscious (I see a prompt, I write and post), like yesterday’s post about the mirror pool in the woods. Sometimes my subconscious is scary ;)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Nicknames is a good idea, and I did use it to small extent. The good thing is that typically there is only one person of a given name that is very important in the story, so the others are more glossed over.

      The back story is far too complex for a prologue. Alternating chapters might work, which is similar to how I did The Halley Branch – every fourth or fifth chapter was a diary entry. I need to do something similar so it isn’t too jarring. Of course, if it is literally every other chapter, the reader will get it. Still thinking about the best way….

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      1. Lizl Bennefeld

        One of my favorite authors uses the alternating chapters in various ways (time period, place, place/time, changing narrator), and labeling each chapter to help the reader switch settings, keep the threads of plot(s) distinct. (In truth, Jo Walton did a wonderful job of it in her novel *All My Children,* which was riveting. She hadn’t used that device in the other books she’d written/I’ve read). Best wishes to you for sorting out what is necessary to find and then tell the story.

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