Editing and revising a novel

Editing and revising, image credit: mjseka on Unsplash

More than a few months ago, I wrote about finding a beta reader. At the time, I was convinced that I’d finished all editing and revising my novel needed and was hoping to start sending it out. I was clearly wrong. The feedback I got made me rethink.

Some of it answered questions I’d asked. But some was my beta reader’s own observations and covered things I hadn’t enquired about, although I probably knew, deep down, didn’t work.

Getting the title right

For a start, I had a feeling no one really liked my old title.

I began to see why at an online session of the London Writers Club with Louise Willder, who’s been writing book blurbs for over 25 years and is the author of Blurb Your Enthusiasm. This is a handy book, by the way, if you’re thinking about blurbs or just want an entertaining read about publishing.

Anyway, on the call, someone suggested putting all our ‘WIP’ titles in the chat. There were some great titles in there – really excellent! But mine was a bit, well, shall we say ‘corny? Or just meh?

There it sat overcrowding a speech bubble on a Zoom chat, overshadowed and shamed by the other much better titles. The sort of title that makes you roll your eyes and yawn. No one mentioned it, just complimented the ones that worked.

But, afterwards, because I was so emotionally attached to it, I was able to delude myself that perhaps I’d misremembered the experience. I told myself that my beloved title was genius and the world would one day understand.

That is, until my beta reader confirmed that I’d have to rethink. So – while I still use the original title in my head and in the folders on my PC – I no longer use it when I enter first chapter awards. And that’s been a good thing.

First chapter awards

In the same way, I was madly in love with my original opening. It was so visceral, full of atmosphere and dramatic tension. But in the context of the whole book, it was also a little cheesy.

I did ask my beta reader about this. And she was very quick to confirm my worst fears – that it felt contrived.

So I’ve spent a lot of time rethinking where I start the story and how. And I’ve ditched, rewritten and re-hooked the beginning.

I’m encouraged in thinking I was right to make these changes because I’m getting further now in competitions. I was shortlisted first for Opening Lines in May and more recently for Novel London.

The latter will announce its results at an event in London on 16 September, where I shall be reading a five-minute extract from the book. Exciting and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. (And yes, a shameless plug!)

The joy of editing

All of this reminds me of the saying: “Art is never finished, just stops in interesting places”. I could spend a lifetime (and probably have) revising and editing, just to visit those interesting places.

But most of all, it’s taught me that beta readers are worth asking questions and listening to 😊.