Editing ethos

My editing style consists of two things:

1) Abbreviation (e.g. a lot of being substituted by many).


2) Realizing when I have a narrative that is so complicated that it could be used for another novel.

My first three novels were originally one long novel before I divided them into two in 2013 (to enter an erotica competition) before dividing the Canadian female’s story again in 2014. The last divide was done for the sake of entering a children’s novel competition. Print publishers have a strict policy about the word-count, so dividing my novel into three facilitated more character and plot development along with more action.

Just like how Earth has five elements, editing has five elements…

1) Correcting typos.

2) Subtracting content.

3) Changing the structure.

4) Extending what already exists.

5) Adding content which didn’t exist before.

In terms of versions, the first two drafts of a novel are akin to the first two drafts of a screenplay. The third draft is like the working print (or rough cut) of the finished product. The fourth draft is the equivalent to the director’s cut. The fifth draft is comparable to the studio release (i.e. having been changed by industry insiders).

Speaking of comparisons, writing a novel is like making a Hong Kong film in the pre-1997 era. There is so much freedom. Getting it accepted by a literary agent is the equivalent to finding a producer to green-light a Hollywood production. There can be meetings involving more than one person. The process of submitting it to an editor is comparable to a production which undergoes the editing system (including a film classification committee).

When I was reading about an Oliver Stone film (Natural Born Killers), a person claimed that the director’s version of any film is always preferable to any theatrical version because the latter is one which has been deemed acceptable by a group of overly sensitive middle-class philistines.

When editing an epic-length novel, you should make the reader feel that it’s too short in the best possible way. You have to give the impression that not only are you trying to cram everything in but that you could’ve gone on for longer (this is according to Salman Rushdie). The trick is to make sure that the pacing is somewhere between leisurely and measured i.e. quick but not abrupt, yet detailed but not convoluted. If a scene gets too long, interweave it with another scene like what would happen for a movie or a TV series.

For me, purple prose is like `80s metal bands using reverberation. The concept was that it added texture but sometimes it took away the clarity (especially the cheaper productions). When Slayer decided to not use reverb for Reign in Blood, they were more critically acclaimed than the other thrash metal bands. Thanks to Rick Rubin, Slayer really understood the concept of less is more. By having shorter songs, the quality of the sound was better because the vinyl wasn’t compressed.

I applied this lesson to writing novels – by keeping things straight to the point (while making sure it’s not average in the process), there’s more room for other content (especially due to the word-count limit that’s imposed by the print industry). Purple prose was parodied in Frasier (Slow Tango in South Seattle) and Highlander: The Series (Dramatic Licence). As such, my writing style disproves that being articulate has to involve being gratuitous, snooty or old-fashioned.


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