Again...and again...and again...

This is why you need to love your story.

First, apologies for this post being late. I have a little one who is recovering from chicken pox, and who refused to get off my lap all morning. I had to actually do housework just in order to move my legs for a few minutes.

Got some final line edits today, for an EC book. Also about halfway through my first editing pass on my new project. So discussing edits is not only timely, but is frankly the only thing I can actually focus my mind on at the moment. Unless you want to discuss chicken pox. Which I'm betting you don't (although feel free to tell me how bad you had it, as that is the first response everyone gives, and is pretty interesting. I was seven. I had them bad. I had one on my eyelid, right on the lashline, and I had to soak it with a warm cloth and then pry my eye open in the mornings.)

So. Editing. Here's what I do.

By the time I've finished the book I hate it. I mean, I still love it, but I hate it. Because behind the love is the knowledge of all the stuff that needs fixing. I remember plot points I dropped. I remember scenes that didn't feel like they worked. I realize the Bad Guy wasn't prominent enough throughout the book, I realize the explanation for a magical happening I pulled out of my behind needs to be clarified and set up, etc. etc. etc. So all I remember of the book is what's wrong, along with perhaps a scene or two that works. One or two scenes is not much on which to base writerly pride.

So, while all of those things I did wrong are fresh in my head, I go back and read with a notepad. I make notes of any inconsistencies that need to be corrected later in the book and correct/add in the stuff I know I'll need. I cut awkward or repetetive sentences. I take out sentences that say the same thing I just said in a different way. (Hee, get it? Little example there.) I remove most adverbs and occurences of the words "just", "a little", and "a bit". Some of those stay, because they need to. Most of them are extraneous and must die. I add in stuff to explain later stuff, I trim dialogue and ruthlessly excise dialogue tags, which are the bane of my existence (although I admit I'm not great at cutting them on the first pass. That comes later, which I'll get to.)

So by the time I've finished that first pass, I'm fairly pleased. The atmosphere and voice of the book are there and the story makes sense (hopefully).

Then I might send it out to anyone masochistic enough to volunteer to read the thing (*ahem* consider this your warning). But in general I set it aside. For a while. I used to go six weeks. Now I need less time, mainly because I think my writing is stronger (as I said on my own blog, I seem to have graduated at least somewhat from the "writing extraneous scenes" school, which is good.) But still. I set it aside, I don't think of it, I write something else, I read, whatever. Hopefully in that waiting period I'll get comments from people who read it, which I will file away.

Then comes the big reread. This is where I incorporate comments that make sense. This is where those other nasty dialogue tags get cut and where I really notice things like character inconsistencies or wonky sentences. Those go. This is also where I check The Big Stuff: does every word, every sentence, suit and advance the story, or is it just pretty or clever? Have I jumped out of voice? Does the theme of the story come through or is it muddled?

And ultimately, did they story hold my interest? What parts were boring, if any? (This is where comments are invaluable.) If those parts are necessary but not sparkling, I can fix them. If they're unecessary, they go.

Cutting hurts. It really does. But I keep everything. One day it will all go on my website (I have a bunch of deleted scenes from Personal Demons) or I may be able to rework it and use it in another book.

So there you go. I never really finish editing. I can tinker until the cows come home, and tinker more after that. After those two strong passes I do another one, lower-level, checking for all those other things still and fixing wording but mainly to see if I think the book is better after the changes. Then I randomly go through and re-read and mess with other bits, section by section. It's a lot, a lot of reading and thinking and criticizing oneself.

And that's just before submission. It gets so much more intense after acceptance!

That's why you need to really love your story. Trust me. You're going to be living with it for a long time.

Comments

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