Jun 28, 2010

The Game Developer's Approach to Editing a Novel

In between bouts of compulsively checking Reddit and trying to get the achievements in Plants Vs. Zombies, I have been editing my most recent novel, Boogie House. The writing and editing of the book has been a long process - I started the first draft in January of 2009 - and I am finally, Finally, FINALLY, coming to the end of working on it. I had several compositional setbacks - like grad school and planning a wedding - which made the last year and a half go by with some quickness, so I hope all the time spent on this beast has been worth it.

I like the book, but then again, I wrote it. I should like it. Whether or not it is any "good" (in any sense of the word), I have no idea, but it will be done in the next few weeks, and I can start sending queries to publishers and agents.

Writing a novel is quite easy. Don't let anyone tell you that it's very hard. Putting down 90,000 words is only a matter of consistency of purpose. Editing, polishing, deleting, revamping, over-thinking, comparing to other better works, making the ending a fitting one, changing characters to make them more lifelike, refraining from plotting and allowing the character to make their own decisions, these are all very, very difficult, and I have suffered from every one of them in the last eighteen months (jeez, I had no idea it had been that long).

Right now, the action is ramping up for the final confrontation, and my only hope is that the ending fits with the general arc of the story. I've already re-edited the novel twice, so any changes made after this point will consist of little tweaks and fixes. The first edit consisted of changing major plot elements, cutting down long scenes, taking out corny bits of narration or dialogue (of which there was plenty), and just generally trying to get a feel for how the novel flowed. I got bogged down three quarters of the way through and didn't really "read" the novel so much as re-write it.

I tried again a second time, going almost instantly into the editing process. I found the novel to be much better this time, and yet I saw so many plot holes that I instantly went about stitching the edges together to make everything more clear and believable. This second edit hasn't been quite as difficult as the first one, but it's still been a slog of sorts. I'm almost done, and I can't wait to be rid of this novel for a stretch.

What I can say is that I've almost taken a game developer's approach to editing Boogie House. Game developers spend a great deal of time working on their games, polishing the graphics and gameplay until everything is as immersive as possible. I have spent time fleshing out characters and injecting backstory and trying to set the novel apart from all of the hard(ish)boiled detective novels out there. As much as I despise editing, this last go-round has taught me that the editing process is where the book simultaneously takes on a life of its own and becomes "my book." I look forward to finding this newest draft utterly readable. Fingers crossed.


  1. hey, when you're done, I would love to read it!

  2. I think I might be done by the end of the week (or by next week)!

  3. Kay Tee1:32 PM

    Your novel sounds like it is going to be great!

    If you dislike editing, you might like the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It makes the whole editing process a LOT easier.

  4. @ kay tee: editing is a LOOONG process for me! Thanks for the advice. I'll have to check out AutoCrit!