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Looking Back Over Your Work - Two Years Later! by Sally Quilford


 It’s apt that I’ve been asked to write this post on editing, because when Pulse accepted my novel, Lonesome Ranger, it had already been published as a 50k novel (Sunlit Secrets) by My Weekly Pocket Novels. Pulse editor, Kate Allan, asked me if I would mind losing around 3000 words. At the time I was not sure if I could even lose 500! However, I had promised to deliver a book and I don’t like letting editors down.

I generally edit as I go along. I change words here and there, always looking for the best way to say something. Then when a novel is finished, I go back and read through again to see how I can improve those words. Then finally I do a spellcheck, which often picks up on anymore clumsiness.
I had not looked at Lonesome Ranger since I sent it out to be published over two years ago, and it was an interesting exercise to go back to it. It was like reading someone else’s words. I was able to pick up on typos and errors I had somehow missed the first time. Going over it also helped me to realise just how much of it might be seen as padding. So I chopped it up, and altered phrases here and there, with the benefit of time and hindsight. Over the course of several days I was able to lose not just 3000 words, but nearly 4000 words, and all without losing the essence of the story.

Was my earlier editing job shoddy? I don’t think so, not counting the obvious typos. For the market at that time, it had to be 50k words so I gave the market what it needed and I tried to ensure that even the padding was relevant to the story. But it was still an education to go over it again with a view to shortening it for a different market.

If you can bear to put your work away for a year or two, and then go back to it, you’re bound to find ways to improve it. Most of us don’t get that chance because as writers wanting to earn a living, we just can’t afford to have our work hanging around on our hard drive.

Do you have something on your hard drive that you haven’t placed, and/or which you may be able to sell on? Maybe you could go back to it and see if you can edit out at least 10% of the words, then try it in a different market. It’s a real learning curve and proved to me that no story is ever entirely perfect. You can always find ways to improve it given the time and opportunity.

There comes a time, however, when you have to let your baby go out into the world, so my advice would be to edit to the best of your ability, but then just let go. 

Welsh born suthor Sally Quilford has been writing since 1995, but only seriously since 2007.  She is the author of numerous short stories, published in British periodicals and also numerous romantic intrigue novels, many of which have initially been published as pocket novels in the UK, that is novellas published in a magazine edition with a shelf life of 2-4 weeks. Most of  her work is published on Amazon. You'll find her at her blog http://quillersplace.wordpress.com.  Her current release is Lonesome Ranger.

LONESOME RANGER



Englishwoman Connie arrives in California with nothing and no one in the world. She has the chance to take a job as a schoolteacher, but this chance is based on a lie. Handsome cowboy Nate Truman has his own secrets, but can he forgive hers?





20 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Sally. It's good to read your tips.

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  2. Super, yes. Leaving a gap is always useful.

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  3. Thanks Maria and Rachel! It is good if you can have the breathing space to go back.

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  4. It's amazing, isn't it, how objective you can be when you come to something after such a time lapse?

    Sally, do you think it was just a question of improving and tightening up the story, or have you learned more over those two years about the markets which you were able to apply here?

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    1. That's a good question, Jeannie. I must admit that I have become quite adept at fitting the needs of the pocket novel market, but Pulse was an entirely new market, and untried. However the editor gave me some pointers, including my tendency to over-explain.

      But I think it was more looking at it with fresh eyes that helped me to see where I could trim it. You know yourself that you get so close to a work, it's impossible to see the wood for the trees.

      Reading it again two years later was like reading a novel by someone else. Sometimes I thought 'Ooh, did I really write that?' and other times I thought 'Oh my God, did I really write that?' ;-) As I wasn't so emotionally involved with the story as when I first wrote it, I could be more ruthless about cutting out the wordy bits.

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    2. Quote: Sometimes I thought 'Ooh, did I really write that?' and other times I thought 'Oh my God, did I really write that?'

      I can certainly identify with that!

      Thanks for such a prompt answer, Sally. I think people often wonder how to reconcile their writing 'darlings' with the demands of the market place, and you seem to have achieved a great balance.

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  5. It's good to read such a pragmatic post on writing, Sally. I'm sure it will be helpful to a lot of authors.

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  6. I try to give myself from a story by writing something else before the final edit. Even if all I do is a quick flash piece, concentrating on that can help clear my mind of the previous story.

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    1. Oooops - wrong log in! That was me. (Seems I can be a bit too good at clearing my mind)

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    2. That's a good idea, Patsy, but sometimes I'm so caught up in the last story I wrote, it's hard to write something new. For example at the moment I'm still in 'Cleopatra' mode and that could last a week or two.

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  7. Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Thanks for sharing all these great tips Sally!

    All the best!

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  9. I have stuff that's been hanging around for 15 years on my hard drive (transferred over the years, of course. I'm not that much of a dinosaur). So, I might be onto winners now if I look again? Thanks for that boost.

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    1. Hi, Jacula! Absolutely! I had a story sitting on my hard drive for eleven years. I got it out, dusted it off and sent it to The Weekly News, and it was accepted immediately.

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  10. Hi Sally Hi Nas, what a neat insight to what you have to go thru to deliver to us readers. It must have been painful to lose so many words because I imagine it would have felt like your little baby. Thank you for sharing the look back over the last two years with us :))

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