There comes a time in every writer’s life when all good things must come to an end right? Ah, I see I have your attention ……
I’m talking about editing the beast of a novel I have just completed. Hold on, did I say completed?? Yes, yes I did. Since completion, I have randomly danced around the house teaching my dog 1980s dance moves and spontaneously burst into song. All done much to the embarrassment of above my kids. I have taken myself and above-mentioned hound on long bracing walks and eaten my weight in chocolate. I am soooo rock and roll.
Whilst one major milestone has been uncoupled, another has landed firmly in its place.This one is bright red and has the word ‘EDIT‘ written in big bold scary letters.This time I have decided on a different approach to the ‘E’ word. I have parked feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. I have ditched worrying about cutting too much or too little. I have adopted a different mind set.
In business, there is often talk of improving by 1%. Here’s the concept. Sir David Brailsford – coach to the British Cycling Team believes in a concept called “the aggregation of marginal gains”. He explains it as “the 1% margin for improvement in everything you do”. His belief is that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1%, then those small gains will add up to remarkable improvement. The British Cycling Team went from winning nothing to winning everything including the Tour de France. Now I am not suggesting I ride a bike, although lord knows I should after my calorific dalliance with cocoa based confectionery. No, I am going to adopt the 1% marginal gains principals for my editing.
The cyclists started by optimising things that were easy to improve. They changed their seats or improved their tyres that sort of thing. For me, that translated to checking my grammar and punctuation. The stuff I would ordinarily do, but my aim was to do it better. Are you with me so far? OK, next the cyclists looked at the small insignificant things. Things that were over looked that nobody really noticed. They looked at things such as the pillows in hotel rooms, were they comfortable enough to aid restful sleep? So how could I apply this to my writing? What were the small things I had overlooked that could be tweaked and improved? I had to be brutally honest with myself. Was every word needed? If I could answer yes immediately I left it alone. If however, the answer I gave was more wishy washy then I applied further pressure.
Here’s an example. Adverbs. Oh, I love them! I know I love them and I know I use them excessively. Here’s what I mean. Consider this sentence:
‘Anna ran quickly across the car park, she looked back fearfully’.
Now whilst there is nothing wrong per-say it could be better, way better. In its current form, it is bulky and clumsy. Now compare it to this:
‘Anna ran across the car park, fear biting at her back’.
I ditched the adverbs, the result is a much punchier sentence. My 1% was staring me in the face with a wicked ‘I told you so’ grin.
Two days in and I am happy to report the editing is going well. I have settled into a new routine and I may even have time to go for a out for a bike ride!