When I first started writing, I would write a couple of pages, then review and edit what I had written. When I had completed a chapter, I would go back to review and edit that chapter. When I finished the book, I would review and re-edit the entire book. At each of these three stages, I found mistakes or text that I wasn’t happy with, and I made changes. A professional editor would then take over, and finally, I would check what the editor had done. (In most cases, the editor had done an excellent job correcting typos and syntax errors.)
My first four novels were what one might call ‘four dimensional’. That is, they told a story about characters, events, places and times. Most novels are four dimensional.
My fifth novel has two additional dimensions: a spiritual dimension and a philosophical dimension, and as I was writing the last few chapters, I began to realise that my editing of the entire novel would have to be far more rigorous. I became concerned that some of the material in the earlier chapters would not fully support the spiritual and philosophical dimensions that I wanted the reader to understand.
So, now that I have finished writing the last chapter, I am going back to the beginning, and reviewing each chapter. This review is much more rigorous than before. I spot whole sections (one of more paragraphs) which were either not interesting enough to the reader, or did not support the spiritual or philosophical dimensions. I delete or completely re-write those sections. (I think it is easy for a writer to become ‘mesmerised by his/her own writing’ and get carried away in prose.) I found, also, that I had to add small pieces of text to help clarify the spiritual and philosophical messages.
It is necessary in this fifth novel that the central character changes his identity and his values, but I noticed that what I had written before did not support the vulnerability of this character to the changes that come later. So, I had to make subtle changes to his character.
In the second, more rigorous, review of each chapter, I was also sensitive to accuracy of time, place and characters. (See my post on Accuracy.)
During this review, I tend to be merciless about what I would call ‘ordinary writing’. That is, writing which lacks uniqueness and character. For example, rather than write that a character ‘fell to the floor, sobbing’, I’ll write ‘she collapsed onto the floor, hiccoughing with sobs’. Doesn’t the latter version better convey her desperation?
And of course, each time I review something I have written, I’ll find typos, awkward syntax and punctuation errors. (That’s a never-ending battle!)
So I no longer trust my self to ‘Get It Right First Time’, as the quality gurus like to say. For me ‘Getting It Right’ is the result of at least six re-reads and improvements, and some of the improvements can be pretty extensive!