Writing Discussion

Hello from Editville

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By Nathan Gunter (CC)

The last time I edited a novel, the process drove me so nutty that I dreamed of pages of red ink, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night quoting all the horrible horrible parts of my novel that had to be removed, hacked apart, rewritten.

Deep breath. Zen.

This time things are going more sanely, and it’s largely because I wrote against an outline. I hate to admit to being a reformed pantster, but if outlining helps me write faster and edit less, then I’m sticking to it! Away with you, complaints!

My goal this time is to do 3 passes instead of 11… 12… *cough* I lost count.

1. Structure and character edits. Rearranging things, and double checking if scenes are necessary. Fixing troublesome characterization. Rewriting whatever needs to be smoothed over or changed.
2. Incorporating feedback from beta reads.
3. The final grammar / poetry / rhythm polish.

That’s it. Simple.

If there’s a theme to 2014 it would be that: simplification, getting rid of excess, so I have more time and energy for everything and everyone I love, and being healthier.

3 steps. Let’s see if it actually works out that way. I’m 8 chapters into step 1 and the plan’s still looking good so far…

Do you have a method you stick to when you edit, or do you just dive in?

10 Comments

  1. I have to be economical with editing, since I post as I write. Mostly, each section gets checked to see if it seems to be going in the right direction, and to make sure it doesn’t contradict anything that already happened. Then I have my Kindle read it to me (several times, along with the part right before it), to make sure it flows, and that the right words ended up in there, and in the right order.

    With my last project, Stevie One, I worked very hard on concision, and I did pretty well (I projected 42k words and ended up with 30k — Go, me!).

    So, I rewarded myself for that achievement by loosening the reins a bit on my current project. There are scenes which are not absolutely necessary, but I’m letting them stay if they’re entertaining enough. Stevie One had a very small cast (really only six major characters), but this one has a lot more), making the ending a bit tricky to nail.

    That’s where I am now.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I like that reward 🙂 It’s a good feeling to not be so hard on yourself sometimes. There are times I feel like those entertaining but possibly unnecessary scenes aren’t as unnecessary as they seem at first. As a reader, I sometimes find those are the best parts.

      1. I always think back to the “disgusting English candy drill” in Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s three pages about the protagonist, an American soldier in England during Word War II, being introduced to what the English consider “candy.” It’s three pages of absolute hilarity, completely out of nowhere, does nothing to advance the plot, does not really reveal character, but what the hell. It’s made me laugh uncontrollably on the subway, more than once. That’s enough.

        Not that anything I ever write will be that funny, but I try to apply the general principle.

  2. I’ve tried several different things over the years, and I *think* printing it out is what works best for me. That way I can mark up the pages, and feel like I’m making tangible progress / visible changes, both when I’m going through it AND when I then input those edits into the computer. That feeling is very important to my motivation.

  3. So glad to hear the edits are going smoothly this time around!

    Normally the biggest part of my revision process is cutting words (thousands of words, because my drafts are always too long) … so that’s the first round. Then I go back and add whatever new details I want to weave in, and do a third round based on critique feedback. This time, however, I can already tell that I’m going to have a lot to change/add, rather than delete. Is it sad that I’m actually looking forward to it? Adding new scenes sounds so much more fun than cutting old ones.

  4. Good luck with your edits. (I’ll volunteer again if you need Beta reads. I’ve no idea right now if I can handle it or not, but I’m optimistic.)

    I haven’t formalized an editing process yet, but I’m starting to see some trends emerge in how I handle Short Stories, at least. My first drafts are largely plot and detail focused – that’s where I put down the bones of the story and get a lot of the sensory and thematic detail that drives the reader experience. Subsequent drafts polish characterization, first and foremost, and revisions to add foreshadowing and enhance the thematic elements and update the plot to reflect the improved characterization.

    Several times now, after finishing the first draft, I’ve taken to writing first-person character summaries that help me get a much better feel for the characters. I’m finding that these summaries are easier to write after the first draft than before. (For my current novel project I tried writing the summaries before writing the first [still incomplete] draft, but I could never quite give it the full justice it deserved. I think I’d be better able to do so, now, for the characters that I’ve actually written about in the book so far.)

    1. Thanks Stephen 🙂

      You know, I’ve noticed that my first drafts are heavy on plot, and I don’t know the characters well until the second draft. I actually wrote out some notes about the personalities of the main characters before staring edits. Maybe character is one of those things that needs some time to evolve.

  5. Kristan: I just wanted to let you know that printing out a draft was exactly what I needed to do. My final scene is a conversation between two characters who haven’t seen each other in over twenty years, and the challenge has been to get them talking. For various reasons, neither is about to ask what the other has been up to. But seeing the whole scene on paper, it’s been possible to figure out where to poke them to get the conversation going.

    Thanks. 🙂

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