Unfortunately the time always comes when you have to declutter, because you just don't have room to live. You can no longer find the great things you own. Editing a novel is just like that.
When you declutter the first items you throw out are the things you definitely won't use. The broken things, the items that you'd be embarrassed if anyone saw. In writing that's the terrible sentences, the ones you're ashamed to have ever written; but any writer knows that you have to get some bad sentences down, so that you can get to the good, then hopefully on to the great .
The next stage is sorting through the items you still kind of like. Not love; but you feel they have potential. You might need them one day. This is more challenging as you edit because you don't want to cut the good stuff. The paragraphs may just need a polish, a few words cut here, some adverbs shaken off there.
Now things are starting to look beautiful, you can see the amazing items you own and are reminded of why you bought them in the first place. Everything feels better, easier and you'd really like to stop. You've done enough, surely? And you're tired too. You want a break.
Deep down though, you know it could be better, you could do a little more to get it just right. This is the part where you start getting rid of unnecessary story arcs, characters and scenes you really want to keep. Kill the Dust Bunnies, take them out into the light and throw them away. Yes it's painful; but for the greater good keep going.
That's the moment that all writers aspire to. The destination at the end of the long editing, decluttering process. It's a challenge. It takes determination. There are times you want to give up and just wallow in the mess, you can get used to it and surely nobody else is ever going to actually see it. At the end though, it will be all worth it. Every single thing you threw out made your novel into the story it was meant to be. Now all that's left is to let other people see it.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.