27 May 2017

#Editing 9: Writing a novel in a Circle

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

How many editing run-throughs does a novel need? It depends on how much of a perfectionist the author is. And I'm definitely a tweak & fiddle writer. Should I be? Or should I be to the extent I am?

Probably not to the extent I am as inevitably it becomes time-counterproductive. However, whenever I read a novel - mainstream or indie - and come across phrasing which makes me wince, or characterisation so shallow I yawn, or authorial viewpoint that makes my eyes roll, there's a little voice in my head saying yours could be like this. And I don't want it to be.

Take the beginning. One of my beta readers brought up a point about it, and the more I've edited the whole the more valid the comment has become. In truth, this is no surprise. When I was teaching I maintained that a novel should be written in a circle. No matter how much prep work is undertaken, during the writing of the opening chapters an author is flexing muscles, marshalling characters, juggling motivations, laying down the atmosphere, honing the tone... By the midpoint, all the facets are jumping to the same beat, and by the ending it should be flowing like silk, or giving the impression it is. 

It's always worth setting the beginning against the ending to see if they balance. I'm not talking about pacing - the ending should be streaking away - I'm talking about the building blocks: sentence, paragraph, and scene structure. Is the beginning too flighty or turgid? Are the characters as introduced human enough or do they need a bit more work?

In my case I'm writing the final novel in a trilogy, yet all three must be able to be read as standalones or even out of sequence. And this was my problem. I've walked with the main character, Nick Blaketon, through six years of his life. I know him like a brother. It's his book, it's his trilogy, yet the new characters and time period stood brighter than he did because I was seeding them within their individual realms while allowing my mate Nick to wander in like an old hand.

It didn't need much: a shake-up of the initial chapter sequence, a couple of new scenes, but the difference is vivid. Nick now steps into his book with emphasis and stakes his claim to main character

If you're close to finishing your own novel, take time to set the ending against the beginning and weigh the two for balance. It could make all the difference, especially if you're sending the work to an agent.

See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata 
Editing-8: Beyond Beta Readers
Editing-9: Writing in a Circle
Editing-10: Polishing the Novel


  1. I'm also in those final stages. Printing off the chapters for a proper read on paper. But, as I prepare each chapter for the print, I'm tweaking, changing, adding emphasis, and running each one through Prowritingaid.com to catch those things the eye so easily misses.
    Looking forward to reading the last book in the series, Linda, since I thoroughly enjoyed the first two.

    1. Oh, gosh, I know the "tweaking". Sounds such a small thing, but it is so easy to tip the nuances, the balance, the echoes, the... Some date this year it might be finished! Good luck with yours.

    2. And with yours, Linda. It's intense, but worth the effort.