editing the detectives

I’ve been thinking about starting a new story, but I think that’s too ambitious while I’m in the middle of editing the mystery stories. I’m working on a couple of ideas (basically a new mystery story and a sequel to Stevie One) but mostly I’m having fun with the editing.

I see a lot of blog posts where people complain about editing. I don’t think I’m more predisposed toward it than anybody else, but I think a factor is time. I’m currently working on “The School Mystery,” which was originally written in the fall of 2007. It feels like the right time to give it a polish.

Some blogs advise finishing that first draft, then putting it away for two weeks (or maybe a month) before starting edits. I agree that two weeks or a month is better than starting immediately, but it seems awfully quick to me. Everybody has their own methods, of course, but I find that it’s good to give myself time to think about a story (and to let it rest while I think about other things). Perspective doesn’t come (at least to me) in two weeks or a month.

It is possible to wait too long. When I was doing final edits on A Sane Woman, I found I couldn’t really write in the same voice anymore. But of course that was fourteen years later.

What have you found works best for you? How long do you wait before starting edits? Or do you wait at all?

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5 Responses to editing the detectives

  1. tsbazelli says:

    I think that I am like you. Even a month later, I could still recall exact sentences that I wrote in my draft. It wasn’t until at least 6 months, or maybe a year that I was able to go back and spot my errors. Unfortunately, most often I don’t think I’ll have that kind of time to wait.

    I’m still working out how I edit. Last time I found my way through in a mess. We’ll see what happens this time! Good luck with yours.

  2. Maggie says:

    For me, it depends on how long the story is. If it’s a short story, I’d wait maybe a month. For a novel… a year. Or longer, depending on the length. It also depends on the characters. If it’s a new story with old characters, I’d wait longer to edit than I would if it was a new story with new characters.

  3. Theresa: That’s the point, exactly. If you can’t see the problems, it’s too soon (which will be different for different people, and maybe for different projects as well).

    Maggie: I’m curious about why you’d wait longer if the story has old characters. My stories usually have a mixture of old and new characters, so maybe this is something I haven’t run into.

  4. I agree about a few weeks or even a few months being such a short time, Anthony! When I get back into my last novel, hopefully later this year, it’ll have been two or three years since I finished the draft. I did have an 18-month hiatus in between drafts of that book, and changed as a person in the meantime, which allowed me to see everything with clearer eyes. I expect the same thing will happen, possibly to an even greater degree, this time around.

  5. Some writers complain about how much time traditional publication takes, but the time (writing the book, sending it out, getting rejected, getting accepted by an agent, getting a publisher, working with an editor, etc.) can help improve the book.

    I can understand the impatience to get the book out there (I’d never have the patience to go the traditional route 🙂 ), but writers should be aware that all the delays might serve an artistic purpose (even if accidentally) as well as a bureaucratic one.

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