Pantsing a Novel: Editing

Yesterday, I shared with you my process of editing. Or at least a proposed process that I’ve decided on based upon my previous editing experiences.

I’ll start here by talking about what editing a pantsed novel is and what it isn’t.

To begin, editing a pantsed novel is not a minor project. Because you’ve been discovering the story and the characters as you write, your editing process will more accurately look like a total overhaul of the story as it currently stands.

However, if you’re going to completely overhaul something, you don’t do it all at once. You have to take it in stages. I have a friend who bought a car a while ago and has been overhauling the entire thing. I’ve kept up through facebook pictures and he has sanded, painted, reinstalled seats, done some things with the engine, and on and on. What he started with was a barely functioning rust bucket and what he ended with was a car worthy of car shows and that many people appreciate.

Having watched him go through that process has given me a different framework to think about editing in. I have to treat my story in much the same way as his car – one section or idea at a time. Sometimes I’ll be working on the story itself, sometimes I’ll need to do more worldbuilding, sometimes I’ll need to look at my overly abundant adverb use (see what I did there?) and find ways to use different words. I’ll need to search out active and passive voice and change them to be appropriate. I need to think about my current POV structure and decide if that’s what I really want to go with or if I want to do something else.

As I begin to list all the things I need to do, it feels overwhelming, but if I take it one piece at a time, then I know it’s manageable.

My current plan looks like this:

  1. Finish the first draft of the story
  2. Write new beginning (which may or may not stay)
  3. Fill in some important worldbuilding pieces into the introduction of the story that are very important to know later
  4. Begin editing the current story at its current beginning

So before I ever actually tackle what I’ve already written, I have some other steps I want to take first. I have some what I’ll call pre-alphas reading the story and while some really like the beginning, others don’t and I’m not sure if I should change the beginning or not. In order to know that, I have to have options. Once I have options, I can go back to my pre-alphas and ask them which beginning is better.

Of course, I can’t do ANY of that until I actually finish the story. I am so, SO close to the end and so I have to stay focused on the task at hand – finishing the first draft. I make a point to not edit before I’ve finished the first draft, otherwise I’ll be sucked into a endless loop of editing that will make it impossible to actually finish the story. A perfectly edited unfinished story is still unfinished.

Truth be told, I know that I’m finishing up the easiest part of this entire process. I don’t think there’s anything easier than just getting the story onto the page to begin. The hard part is truthfully completely in front of me. All the hard work of editing, of managing alphas and betas and managing feedback and incorporating it and changing hundreds of words and then the professional edit and then the work after that. It’s all in front of me.

You know what though?

I’ve been through this process before and I know that I can survive it. I know that I have enough grit, determination, and dedication to see this through. For the second time in my life, I have something that I’m willing to push really hard for, to endure the nearly impossible, to get up again and again for, to put myself out there for critique, to improve.

I really want this and I want to work for it. It won’t always be easy and there will be times that I take breaks for weeks because it’s so hard. But I will always come back because I love it.

Where are you your writing process? Are you ready to edit? What are you most looking forward to in the process?


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3 thoughts on “Pantsing a Novel: Editing

  1. I would say that I am on step 2, writing a new beginning. The one that I had just didn’t incorporate enough of the world information. I know what I want to say now, just need the time. Can’t wait for the little nippers to go to bed.


    1. That’s really exciting!

      It’s hard to know how much to put in there when you first start writing. I’ve heard that several great authors actually write the first chapter last (though I don’t remember who they are now). It makes a lot of sense!

      And I toooootally get waiting for bedtime to write! 😉


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