Developmental Editing on your own Work

When I wrote the first draft of Dead and Buryd, I thought I had an amazing setup. I had a couple of chapters of gentle action and discovery, I get the audience used to the characters, and then I amped up the action. I made sure to give a good couple peaks and troughs of action, like they say you should. Make your plot progression a mountain range, not a single climb and descent.

I thought it was brilliant, but boy was I wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of good stuff, even if I do say so myself, but it was nothing compared to what it is now. Since I worked with a professional editor, Dead and Buryd has gone from a mediocre fiction to a proper novel. The mountain range has become more pronounced, and those peaks are even higher than they were before.

Now, there are some that might say “If you needed an editor to do that, you’re not really a good writer.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t agree. An editor doesn’t write the work. They don’t come up with the ideas. They polish them. They suggest things for the writer to implement and improve on. I made the cake, my editor told me how to stir it and how long to cook it for.


However, today, that is not really what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is how that editing process has changed the way I’m working now. I’ve been through the editing of Dead and Buryd, I’ve discussed it to death. But the editing of that novel is now changing the way I work on the next.

The sequel to Dead and Buryd, what will become the second book in the Out of Orbit series, has been planned for a while. The ending is still a little hazy (or more, the half dozen chapters before the end,) but the main plan is there. Hell, the first 28 chapters are planned to the crosses of Ts. It’s basically going to be a game of join the dots, but hopefully more fun.

However, since editing of D&B finished, I’m now reconsidering how I’m approaching number 2. Originally, it followed the same sort of progression that the original draft of D&B did. A couple of chapters exploration, then amp up the action. The audience will already know the characters, so some stuff will move faster this time around, but there was still those few chapters of exposition.

I’m considering cutting them.

The first round of editing of D&B saw a massive change to the first six chapters of the book. A second prologue (The Quarter Run) was added, chapter 3 (Buryd in the East) became chapter 1, and chapters 1, 2, 4, & 5 were completely rewritten. It was a painful process, ripping apart my writing and doing it all again, but in the end, it works so much better that I’m glad I did. It feels like taking apart a slightly banged up car, cleaning and repairing every part, and putting it back together again to find it’s now in perfect condition.

One thing it really did was to rev the engine of the story. You have mystery in The Quarter Run, and sudden jolt of dread and realisation of what the world entails. You have an injection of action right after that in Buryd in the East. Left off with the question of the second prologue, you’re suddenly thrown into a prison with a medic. You see that the character is capable of in the first chapter that follows her.

Now I’m thinking, after putting the car in the garage for a couple months after finishing the first race. I want to rev the engine for the second. I don’t want to make the mistakes I made the first time around. I don’t want to write a mediocre tale and have to rip it apart to turn it into something great. I want it to be great right off the bat so that I can (with the help of my editor) turn it into something truly fantastic. I want to take Dead and Buryd and beat it in every race.

So, instead of ripping apart a mediocre finished draft. I’m about to start ripping apart my plan.

Dead and Buryd is just about to leave the gate… but this sequel is going to be hot on it’s heals.


About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
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