I’m afraid this blog post might come out rather muddled because that’s exactly how I feel whenever I think about this issue. However, I’ll try to make my thoughts as clear as possible.
I have a science fiction/crime novel that I completed around this time last year. I’ve edited it numerous times and have tried my best to make it a better piece of writing. It’s the first book in a series that I originally conceived as a television show (actually all of my novels started out as scripts but that’s beside the point). I love the characters, their stories and back stories. I love the way the characters interact with each other and how, when I write about them, I keep discovering new things about their lives and personalities. In short, I really enjoy writing about the characters and want to continue with the series. But I also want to be able to share the characters and their stories with the world someday. Before I do that, I need to make the novel “good enough.”
The problem is that I’ve reached the point where I no longer know what to do to improve the story. If I start making more changes, I’m not sure if they will even be improvements or if I’ll just be over-editing.
For example, I’ve reduced my prologue from five pages to approximately one page because I realized that I was guilty of the dreaded “info dump.” But now I’m left with a very bare-bones prologue without any real character interactions. I don’t know if that’s okay or if ideally my prologue should be somewhere between the original one and the current one.
I suppose the obvious next step would be for me to get input from other people and I guess that’s something I should look into because I just can’t trust my own judgment anymore. When I finished the first draft and read it over, I was quite happy with the story as a whole. Sure, it needed lots of work, but I wasn’t embarrassed by it. But now every time I look at the words on the page, all I think is “ick, ick, ick, amateurish!”
I did have one person read the entire novel for me but I’ve made significant changes since then. And I figure it’s probably a good idea to have at least three different opinions during the editing process. I tried registering for a writers’ workshop but then it was cancelled for lack of registration. I will keep watching for other classes/workshops in my area though.
But for now, I have a few questions. To begin with, how do you know when and when not to listen to your inner critic? My inner critic has allowed me to catch and fix problems with my manuscript but sometimes that same inner critic really isn’t very constructive. Have I just read my manuscript too many times? Or is it really as bad as it seems? Ahhhhh! These are the questions that go around and around in my head until I feel like I’m going crazy!
Along the same line, how do you know when your editing has changed from improving your manuscript to over-editing? Is there a way to know? Do you rely on a gut feeling or on the opinions of others who have read your manuscript?
I know this isn’t the type of problem that has clear cut answers, but I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.
I can’t give up on my novel or its characters. I love them too much. I’m just not sure how to move forward at this point.
Any thoughts/opinions would be greatly appreciated!