Writing Wednesdays: What it was like to edit The Beach House - 8 years later

The Beach House is a spin-off novella to The Kissing Booth, and boy, was it hard work to edit!

For those of you who aren’t aware: The Beach House is a companion novella to my most well-known novel, The Kissing Booth. 

It is being published as an ebook on May 11th in the UK (including Commonwealth), and in the US (including Canada). And for those of you asking - we've sold a few translation rights and hopefully more will follow!

I wrote The Kissing Booth back in the summer of 2011, uploading it to Wattpad at the same time. A few weeks after I finished posting it, I uploaded The Beach House. The Beach House takes place during the summer of The Kissing Booth, before Noah goes off to college – so it’s not a sequel, just to clarify.

I’m going to talk in a different post about why I decided to write The Beach House and the inspiration behind it – but today, I’m going to talk about what it was like to work on a book I wrote eight years ago.

Honestly: it was hard.

I wrote The Beach House literally just after I finished writing The Kissing Booth. I posted each chapter every couple of days to Wattpad, and… that was it. I uploaded the whole thing around September-November 2011. I'd give each chapter a quick proof-read before I hit ‘publish’, but that’s all I did. 

I never edited it after writing it, unlike The Kissing Booth. With that, I knew there were things I didn’t like about it, so way before the publishing deal was even on the table, I went back over it and edited it myself. Mostly for my own peace of mind, and because it was something I wanted to do. 

But with The Beach House, I never went back. It was just a fun little side project because people loved the characters so much, and because it had been fun to dive back in with them. I never thought ‘seriously’ about it, and never really had any drive to go back and edit it later on down the line.

When my agent said that publishers were interested in The Beach House, and went on to make deals for it along with The Kissing Booth 2: Going the Distance, I thought – cool! Why not? People seem to enjoy it, and where The Kissing Booth has gained a new audience after the movie, it seems like a great idea.

“They do want to do some edits,” my agent warned me.

“That’s fine!” I said. It was. “I’ve not looked at it in years.” 

I knew it needed work. It needed tidying up (a LOT). I was totally fine with editing it.

In principle, anyway.

There are three main reasons I found it so hard to work on The Beach House again…

1. I hadn’t so much as looked at it in about eight years (which is a LONG ASS TIME)
2. I did not have a lot of time to waste not working on it, or doing it bit by bit
3. It’s bloody scary to publish something ‘new’ (ish) after something like a successful Netflix movie based on your book... especially when you haven't published anything in a few years...

When I actually got the first edits back from my UK and US editors, I struggled so much. 

(For context, I got the Word document of it back with tracked changes and comments – so I could see where they’d changed, deleted or added things, or where they’d left a note on a specific bit of text. I had a couple of other overarching comments in an email.)

I had a pretty tight turnaround of one week for the edits. The Beach House clocked in at fifteen chapters and around 35,000 words. This was all fine: I had most of the weekend to work through the bulk of it, and the rest of the week to do the last few chapter.

I sat down on the Saturday afternoon ready to do the first five chapters.

I got through about three. It was painful. I hadn’t looked at any of this in eight years. That’s eight years of my writing evolving and developing and also, it was written as a more serialised format: I’d re-introduce characters and relationships, go into a lot more depth a lot more often than is needed for a book, which you’d intend to read more of in one go – not so much a chapter per week.

On the Sunday, I knew I had to knuckle down. I procrastinated until around 2pm. I’d open it up, work through a paragraph or two… and message my friends, go on Twitter, do anything but edit. I’d go back. Manage half a page. Have to take a break.

I’d forgotten a lot of the detail that went on in The Beach House. (I mean, you would, too, if you hadn’t looked at a story in eight years.) Don’t get me wrong: I love the story, and I loved so much getting back to my characters. But editing can be hard, especially when you’re being so self-critical.

This may be the hardest project I’ve ever had to edit.

Even without the tight deadline and the fact I hadn’t looked at this book in eight years, I felt a lot of pressure with The Beach House.

For some people, I knew, this would be their ‘gateway’ into The Kissing Booth books. (Wow. That’s weird to think I have an actual series. I know TBH has been around for a while, but I’ve never really thought of it as a ‘series’.) 

I knew this could be the first book in The Kissing Booth series that some people might read. Or that for people who have loved The Kissing Booth so much and want more, they had high expectations for this novella. Especially because, hey, it’s only a novella, that’s super quick and easy, right?

(Wrong. God, so, so wrong.)

I don’t think I even felt this kind of pressure when working on the sequel – but hey, I still have the edits to work on for that one… 

BUT, despite how hard it was to get started, I got into a rhythm. 

After about Chapter Five, which took me probably about three hours to get to, I was in the right state of mind to edit (which is very, very different to writing something new). I was back in Elle’s POV and back with these characters I know so well, and the story began to feel familiar again.

I managed to finish editing the whole thing in seven hours. I hardly left my spot at the dining table in that whole time, but I got it done. It was exhilarating and exhausting, but it was done.

I've found that typically when I'm editing, I'm better to work through in big chunks - as big a chunk as I can possibly manage. That proved true again in this case, even if it did take me forever to get started.

There’s something nostalgic about going back to an old book, though.

There’s something nice about re-visiting something you worked on a long time ago. You can see the sort of books and storylines and characters you loved so much at the time reflected in it, and you can see how much you’ve grown. 

Considering The Beach House is a relatively short book, it took so much hard work - which I really hope pays off, and I hope you all enjoy the final thing! 

The Beach House is being released on May 11th in ebook, and you can order it from Amazon here.

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