There are a couple of different levels of editing that my fiction usually goes through.
The easiest, hence my favorite kind is the light, surface edits of fixing a few tenses, some grammar, and a few typos. Maybe I’ll have to reword a sentence, or split a mouthful into two sentences. But mostly it’s an easy read through and tightening up of what is already there.
The other end of the spectrum is the scrap yard edit, and thankfully I’ve had to do very few of these. This is the kind of gig where you look through a (usually) unfinished piece for anything worth salvaging. It might be a character, a line, maybe a story hook or location. It’s basically the writing equivalent of looting a corpse. The story as is can’t be saved, so this is a fairly easy process as well. After all, it isn’t really writing.
Somewhere in the middle is the kind of editing/rewriting that I rarely have to do. This is typically the “something does’t work here and this is why. You need to rewrite the ending (beginning, flashback, etc),” kind of rewrite. Not an edit, really. This is a whole paragraphs worth of new material, sometimes salvaging bits from around the faulty area to cut other paragraphs out entirely. It’s like turning the story into the Six-Million Dollar Man. We can rebuild it. We can make it stronger, faster…
I generally don’t mind that level of rewrite. It’s more work, certainly. And it always makes the story better. But I’m still not used to it, and every time I approach one of those edits it makes me twitch.
The story I just finished for the Cobalt City Neighborhoods project is one of those. The beginning was a bit rambling, and didn’t set up the mood and atmosphere I wrapped up with. And the transition from info-dump into story was clunky at best. The second draft was miles away from where I started. The whole thing turned into a bit of sorcerer-noir, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s in the hands of my enormously talented editor now, and after I do a final polish tomorrow, it will be ready to launch.
Now on to other projects!