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That dreaded edit

Creative WritingPosted by Barbara Sun, January 10, 2016 19:00:08

I did it!

The dreaded editing is no more. (For now, of course).

It really was a struggle this time and it came as a surprise to me how reluctant I was to make certain changes, even in the face of good advice.

Because I regularly review other people’s creative writing, I know that often writers choose to ignore sensible suggestions for changes and revisions. I get quite grumpy if I spend time and energy coming up with improvements for a manuscript and then find that writers don’t listen.

Whenever a writer tells me, ‘I decided not to change the [whatever the heck it was] in the end because…’ I secretly think, ‘Because you’re too lazy.’ Or, ‘Because you’re too arrogant to listen to someone who knows their stuff. You idiot. On your own head be it.’

And then I politely respond with something like, ‘It’s your story and you’re entitled to disagree, of course. I can only advise.’ And hope they can hear the unwritten, deep and sorrowful sigh that accompanies my words.

I tell myself that I am not like that at all, of course. My journalism background has knocked out any pretentions I have about my writing, I allege, and I am quite happy for people to criticise it and suggest ways of making it better.

Until they do.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the wise agent who read through a draft of my YA novel (working title: Halloween, though I’m going off this a bit) had a number of ideas for fairly major changes, including an entirely different ending and that an important character should not die. When we chatted about it, I was completely convinced by his arguments.

When I physically came to rewrite, however, I found I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t just that pulling out a strand from the ending turned the manuscript into a kind of word-based Ker Plunk, with other bits of the story tumbling down like marbles as a consequence. I found I genuinely, honestly, didn’t like it as much. The major character has been brought back from the dead and I can just about tolerate this. But the ending… oh, I really liked my original ending, in all its bleakness. Much as I see the case for the changes, the new version feels rather too cheery.

What to do? If I sent back a note saying, ‘I decided not to change the ending because…’ would this very patient agent suspect I just couldn’t be bothered or I am too stubborn to listen? Possibly.

So this is what I have done. I’ve written the new ending, as advised and called it Ending 1. So I can’t be accused of any of the above writerly sins of laziness or arrogance. And I’ve then added on the alternative Ending 2, which is more like the original, so that we can have another discussion.

And I am now about to Attach Doc and press Send. Even after four published novels, this part of the process never gets any less scary. Wish me luck!

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