20 Things I Learned as an Editor

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Hi everyone.

Whoever says that the most important thing about writing a novel is to finish actually 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 that 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 nice chance to learn something new. Here is a brief list of what I’ve learned so far:

  1. 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.
  2. The brighter ideas about your storyline you get after finishing it, the more you have to edit and rewrite afterwards.
  3. Names never sound okay.
  4. Breaches in logic, inconsistencies, and other flaws become easier to notice when you return to your writing after two months.
  5. Dialogues never sound okay.
  6. Novels never sound okay either–to their authors, at least. If you are 100% satisfied with your writing, something is probably wrong.
  7. 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.
  8. A big chunk of writing held at the same pace can be annoying.
  9. Lengthy monologues, when characters express their ideas as if they were lecturing students in Cambridge, look stupid.
  10. The presentation of the main idea of your story should be subtle, almost transparent. Your readers should be able guess the main idea themselves.
  11. Editing can actually require more effort and psychological resources than writing.
  12. Explaining everything is a bad idea.
  13. On the contrary, places where you decide to not dig into details turn out to be the most intriguing and interesting.
  14. Female characters can be unnatural if you are a male author (I suppose, the same refers to male characters and female authors).
  15. Even if decide to do some more editing after you finish editing your previous edit, there will still be something left to edit.
  16. You actually make a lot of mistakes.
  17. And most likely, you write horribly–at least in your first and second drafts.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. And finally: editing really does make everything better!

Good luck with your writing, folks.


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