It’s been a long, hard road. It’s been grueling at times, though ultimately rewarding. But tonight, it’s over. At long last, the editing of Wide Horizon is complete.
When I completed the first draft of my debut novel over a year ago now, I felt deeply fulfilled. And with good reason: I’d written a novel. With pages and paragraphs and characters and everything. And, however good or bad it was at that point, I felt justified in allowing myself a moment to marvel at the simple fact that I’d taken an idea and translated it painstakingly onto paper. I hadn’t given up. I’d pushed through all manner of difficulty, and I’d accomplished something big.
Ridiculous as it must sound to more experienced authors out there, at that moment I’d honestly believed the hard part was behind me, a conclusion that appears blindingly stupid now. In all fairness, it has to do with the manner in which I’ve written for much of my life. For years, I was a person who didn’t believe in rough drafts. Essays, research papers, progress reports at work…didn’t matter. Before writing so much as a word, I would sit, sometimes for a while, and think. I’d plan out exactly what I wanted to say, then write exactly what I wanted to say, and that was that. It worked for a long time; throughout high school and college I never once wrote a rough draft, even when explicitly told to do so by English teachers or professors, and not a single one of them noticed. (If any of those individuals are reading this, while it may be far too late to matter, I am deeply sorry.)
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles from writer’s resource webpages with titles like “Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before Writing My First Novel”. Looking back, I believe I could write an entire book on what I didn’t know before trying to write a book. Wide Horizon was, in many ways, the ultimate trial by fire. I had never written anything so long, never written anything so totally reliant on my own imagination. Suddenly, I had to worry about things like continuity. More fundamentally, I had to learn to write when, really, there was absolutely no way to plan out exactly what I was going to say.
To my delight, the end result was a thoroughly rewarding experience, one that granted me a sense of freedom I’d never truly thought possible. For me, an engineer, whose entire life is bound by numbers and limits and thresholds, doing something so completely out of bounds proved to be the ultimate escape from reality. By day I sat at a desk and computed, tested, and reported. By night, I left my life behind and soared through the stars.
Editing, ultimately, proved to be yet another learn-as-you-go experience. It had been years since I’d felt the need to fundamentally rework anything I’d written. Now, I was called upon to make extensive changes to something I’d spent the better part of two years creating. At first, part of me proved incapable of escaping the past. That part of me was convinced editing was a waste of time, that my work was more than capable of standing on itself, as good as it would ever be.
I’m glad I got past that. While this process has been challenging, it forced me to revisit my original ideas for Wide Horizon, and resulted in a far better novel. While my first draft was largely successful in getting my gist across, the manuscript I have now is a far deeper, richer, more compelling story, and I am endlessly proud of what I’ve accomplished.
It’s not over, of course: starting tomorrow, I’ll be embarking on one final read-through. I still have a few sections I’m thinking of trimming down (my word count has ballooned to nearly 149,000 words). I have recently-added and reworked passages that haven’t been properly proofread yet. But, tonight I feel I can sit back and exhale. The hard part is over, and I’m one step closer to seeking publication.