Claire King


Editing is turning the pot.

Posted on: August 14th, 2012 by Claire - 6 Comments


I like editing.

I find writing a first draft of a novel like digging the clay from the ground with my fingernails. Sometimes I hit a rich seam, other days I’m scraping at scraps and wondering if there’s any clay left to find. But it all builds up eventually and you end up with enough – more than enough – words for a novel. But they are so not in the right order. And the pile of words looks nothing like a story.

Editing is turning a pot. It feels much closer to creating the vision I have in my head. In fact, when I was editing The Night Rainbow two years ago I wrote this.

The second draft (after the first edit) looks more or less like a finished piece – let’s say a vase. You can at least tell what it’s supposed to be. But it’s still ugly and the flowers would sit badly in it. This is assuming of course that it hasn’t gone all wobbly and you’ve had to start again. That can happen. Sometimes more than once…

The third draft will look much better though. The nuances start to shine through.

Still you keep going. With every spin of the wheel you find another imperfection, and as you correct it you notice that it now shows up other flaws. Will this thing ever be perfect? Will it ever be good enough?

Eventually there will come a time to say yes. But I’m not there yet with this book. I’m only just finishing the second draft and looking forward to the first round of polishing. And the next…and the next.


Of course it still won’t be finished, not for this book – first it’s off to my agent and then my publisher and then there’ll be (touch wood) a whole new set of edits. If you’re interested in my experience of the firing, painting and glazing process you can find out more in these posts:

Publishing editor’s line editsCopyedits and Proofs. And not forgetting the book covers!

Photo above via Flickr Creative commons. For (c) see here. 

6 Responses

  1. Suzy Norman says:

    I love editing too. It’s my favourite part of the process ( when I’ve got past the eye-straining first read-through, that is!)
    The final edits are the most satisfying of all. That’s sometimes when you can relax with what you already have and then you can add a few more interesting phrases. Let the real writing begin!

    • claire says:

      Exactly. I *really* enjoyed picking over the little details with my editors. And when you’re at that stage you can forget what it took to get there because it’s hard to imagine a world where that story doesn’t exist.

  2. The image of the wheel and the pot is perfect. As someone right in the throes of an edit it fitted how I have been feeling over the last few days. the inital struggle followed by moulding and caressing to create the story I want.

    • claire says:

      The initial struggle is just right! And I’ve heard that the more times you do it the easier it gets (crosses fingers)! Good luck with your edits!

  3. Emma Pass says:

    Great post, Claire! This is exactly how I see first drafts and editing too. I love the editing stages… the first draft, not so much – probably because I want it to be perfect already! But you have to go through the whole process, and it’s always worth it in the end.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Emma! I think with the book I’m working on at the moment I’ve been really ambitious with the voice and the themes, so my pot is rather wobbly at the moment. But I’m held together by the fact I know I can do it, I’ve been here before and it turned out OK in the end! As you say, it’s worth it. *wets hands, spins wheel again…*

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