My Favourite Kind of Problem


I’m working on revisions for two different projects right now, and I kind of love it. Maybe that sounds weird, but working out writing issues is the kind of problem solving I actually enjoy.  I’m sure I will come to rue the day I spoke fondly of editing, but hopefully when the inevitable crash does come, it will cycle around again.


Editing is like a puzzle sometimes. It feels like a brain exercise to look at a sentence, realise it doesn’t work, and then decipher the problem. Can the sentence be shuffled around, rearranged into a better flow of words? Or does it need to be scrapped completely? Why? Which word is the flawed one causing the whole sentence to fracture into confusion?

Clarifying a character’s feelings or motivations is the trickier version of the puzzle, and even more interesting, I think. For me, this one is less like a puzzle and more like a maze. You know the end result, but not how to get there, and have to comb through the manuscript and to find a niche in which to fit something telling about the character.  When the right place is found, it takes some careful consideration to decide what to show about the character to make them more vivid, and easier to relate to.


I like talking about character development, as most of my friends and family know. My very-patient mom provides lots of advice and listening time while I struggle to untangle character knots, and my husband sometimes chuckles when I get overzealous about analyzing the actions of the hero of a movie. Luckily, my amazing agent Carrie also loves talking about character development and plot, and we share lots of notes on those points while polishing a manuscript for submission. At the end of it, the story is always better.

I think one of the other things I like about editing is the change of pace. Writing the first draft is wildly exciting, a tempestuous swirl of images and snatches of character conversation floating through your head, but it can also be really intense. Some days it goes well, and hours of writing fly by before the gnawing pains of hunger wake you up. Other times, each word is awkward agony. I always feel like I have to get the story written down as fast as possible, before I forget what I wanted to say, or even worse, lose interest in it. I can’t help laying some pretty strong guilt trips on myself if I skip a day of writing while in the middle of a new story.

Editing is a lot more structured and less frantic. (At least for now – it’s easy for me to say that when I have no stone-carved and looming deadlines). Sometimes it feels tedious, and I may have to force myself to sit down and get started, but when I look up, time will have flown and I’m starving again. (Apparently the real lesson here is to keep a snack at your desk. And don’t break to make ‘quick’ grilled cheese sandwich, unless you can restrain yourself from returning to the computer ‘just until it’s time to flip it’, unlike me.)

For now I’m just happy that the editing is a positive experience, because as I polish up my projects and get ready to go out on submission again, my fingers are crossed that I’ll be lucky enough to have a lot more edits coming in the future, and some of those deadlines, too!


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10 thoughts on “My Favourite Kind of Problem

  1. Wow, it’s nice to read about someone else who I can totally relate to. While I’m far, far, faaaarrrrr from the submission process, editing is my second love to writing. Clarification, I prefer editing my own work because I can be as critical as I want without hurting anyone’s feelings. I am constantly getting ‘too involved’ with film heroes and heroines characters and discussing them at length with anyone who will listen. Much to my father’s chagrin. Making the plot work (again, something I’m not good at) and cutting here and there is actually really fun. Except when I know I need to cut something that I really want to have in there, but it doesn’t fit. I hate that.

    I’ve found that as I am quickly writing out that first draft, I make editing marks that I know I will have to come back and fix. I don’t fill in the whole idea, but just enough green or red marks to know when I come back.

    It’s all a process. And honestly, I could edit things long past submission stage. It’s hard not to fix constantly. Loved the post.

  2. I’m glad you liked the post! And that I am not the only one who likes editing! I do something similar to you on the green or red marks for things to return and fix after the draft is done. I make notes to myself to go back and find later and flesh things out, or check facts or dates.

    I agree, I think it’s impossible to stop editing unless forced. I bet even authors of very critically acclaimed books look back at a printed copy and sigh, wishing they had tweaked that sentence one last time.

    Send me a note if you ever can’t find someone to listen to analyses of film characters!

  3. I once saw an interview with Tom Clancey where he said that what we (the huddles masses) read was pretty much his first and only draft. In his voice, it was something like “You get ’em just like I write ’em.” I always wished I could do that. For the record, I like editing the way like jabbing sharp sticks into my eyes. So I guess I envy you the love of editing… because unlike Tom, I sure as hell have to go through it. And through it. And through it. And…

    • Even though I don’t mind editing, I envy Tom Clancy now too. He must have so much more free time! Maybe when we are famous bestselling authors we will be able to write more like him! Although I’m not sure I could let it go after one draft…

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