The Value of Distance

I wrote Deadworld in a span of 14 weeks between July and October of 2007. It was my second completed novel and done far quicker than my first. I went through it briefly with a quick edit, fixing minor things, but at that point I considered it done. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a weak editor. I have a very difficult time looking at my work with an objective eye. It’s far easier for me to hand it off to someone who can say “what about this?” and have me realize, “oh yeah, that is a problem. I can fix that.” I think it’s in large part a mental thing. When I finish the book, it feels done. I want it to be done. I don’t want to go through and pick it apart, mostly because I know I’ll miss the obvious.  Can’t stress enough the value of having good critique partners or readers to point things out.

I think in large part, this is all due to the book becoming set in your mind once written. You took a certain path, which at the time, feels like the best one, fixed problems as you went along (at least this is how I do things), so when you type “the end” you feel like the novel is the best it can be at that point in time. Honestly, it probably is, at that point in time. Six months later, after some feedback, I rewrote Deadworld from first person to third based on some feedback I received. I saw what they meant and understood the issues in my book. When I completed it the second time, I felt much the same as the first time. It was done, best I could do. When I got my deal from Kensington and they sent editing notes, I got a chance to go through the book yet again, and saw where new problems were that I didn’t see before. I rewrote most of the first half of the book.

Every time I go through the book after time away from it, the story feels a bit different. My writing has grown since 2007, and hopefully I’m a better writer. My perspective on how I did things has changed. If I were to write Deadworld now, I might do some things differently, scenes would be different, the dialogue would be different. I still like my story a lot. And now I’m reading through it yet again to go over the proofs. More time has passed, and it feels different to me even now. I like it more than I did back then. I’m more sure of what I did. I still see things I would do differently given the chance, but it is what it is at this point.

So, three years have passed. If I had set the book aside back then and pulled it out now, I could probably do much of the editing I accomplished over that time. My perspective changed. The further away I got from the story the more objective I became. What advice have I learned to pass on to other writers at this point? Get distance from your book. The more objective you can be, the more able you will be able to tackle the editing required, because trust me, it’s never right the first time  around.


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