As you can probably guess, I’m deep in the middle of the editing process on my novel. I’ve been through the whole story at least once–some parts many, many more times than that–and now I’m making all those minor adjustments needed for the story to flow and make sense.
Except that there are no minor adjustments. Not really.
One of my characters originally had a cat. After some deliberation, I realized that the cat was a ‘darling’, something lovely and oh-so-precious but ultimately a detriment to the story, and had to be ‘killed’. Of course, since I had performed incredible contortionist feats to accommodate the stupid cat in the first place, I now find myself having to delete any mention of it in the first quarter of the book, at least. This means rearranging dialogue, description, action… the beast had gotten his paws into all sorts of things.
In another instance, I realized that I should maybe introduce a particular minor character who plays a major role sometime before his appearance in the final act. It should be easy enough to just have him passing through a particular scene early on, right? Wrong. The fact that he’s even there in that early scene reverberates through the rest of the novel, affecting how many other scenes play out. Some of it will be in the background where the reader won’t necessarily see it, but some of it happens right out there on the page. Let’s face it, I can’t really introduce a character as occupying a particular setting and then ignore his presence whenever it becomes inconvenient.
Every time I make a tiny change, it seems to snowball, affecting something two, three, twenty scenes down the line. Sometimes it means having to make notes later (or sometimes earlier) in the draft to make sure I account for that change where it matters. It can become a lot of work, especially since it’s never just one minor change. But you know what? All that work? It’s worth it. One of the amazing things about making these changes is seeing how much better my story is becoming.
Because just as one minor change leads to a string of other changes, it can also snap a string of events into focus. Suddenly, one character’s behaviour makes a lot more sense, and another’s motivation becomes clearer. Everything becomes tighter, everything becomes richer, and everything hangs in a better balance. And the best part? Through all these changes, I’m still discovering new things about my characters as they do things I hadn’t anticipated, things that say so much more about about their personalities than what was there before.
If you happen to be in the same boat as I am with your writing process, don’t worry. All that hard work and all those ‘minor’ adjustments are worth it in the end, bringing your story to a stronger, more cohesive place.