Iceberg, right ahead!
I’ve just made it through the copyediting phase of my first to-be-published novel Ryders Ridge so I thought I’d pause to reflect on the iceberg-y nature of books. And who doesn’t love a good Titantic reference? (for a fun and actually balanced sidebar, check out this).
When I was a beginning writer (a phase I might be just moving out of now), just getting the manuscript done was the big hurdle. The whole task. Once that baby is finished, you think, you’ve done it. Send it out and let the admiring begin. Mission accomplished, Captain!
Yeah, no. A little later, I learned about editing, a painful realisation – but by all the wordy gods, a necessary one. Over the last few years, I’ve come to love it. Editing is where characters and story actually get tuned into something passable, and possibly even something good. First drafts must be made into order to edit them, and nothing more, which is immensely liberating.
You hear many times how it’s critical to be able to edit your own work, and it’s true – at both structural and line level. But then, there’s being edited by someone else. Oh, the pain. Not usually of what’s actually said/suggested (any professional editor should have a professional tone), but acknowledging someone else has actually read your work and thought about it. This too, however, I’ve learned to love. They spot things I never would. This is also one of the the reasons I think it’s important to move on if you find yourself endlessly editing the same project (my first novel was set aside for this reason).
But, back to the iceberg. Ryders Ridge is something of a miracle in production speed. I’m a quick writer usually, but this was still unusual effort, and the condensed timeframe allows me to estimate hours of actual work with better accuracy than with a project done over longer periods. Here’s my numbers:
- 150 hours to write the first draft
- 300 hours to structurally edit – at least (2 edits before sale and 1 after)
- 60 hours to go through the copy edit
So, I think more than double the work in editing than in writing. Editing was also much more mental work than writing; and in my case, unfortunately, involved more dithering (at least in the first two edits). Was there more work because I wrote it fast? No, I don’t think so. I actually think it was the best quality manuscript I’d produced to date, not least because I didn’t have time to forget scenes and plot-lines. It’s not quite the 1/9th above water level of a real iceberg, but it feels like most of the work happened after writing “the end”.
I actually think this isn’t something I was ready to know when I was starting out. It’s helpful sometimes to not realise these things until you reach a certain stage, at least for me. But I think there’s two things you have to know if you’re close to finishing that first manuscript. Firstly – you must edit. And secondly – you must structurally edit first. Otherwise all that careful line editing will be wasted time, probably hacked out or changed in the first structural review. Happy editing. 🙂