CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD!! I highlighted for your convenience.
One of my critique partners and I were discussing our latest critiques this morning when she suggested that I should write a post about my editing process. I LOLed and my editing process is a big puzzle and promised to write a blog post about it before dashing off to work.
To explain my process, I have to say some things that may make you think I’m crazy or just plain lying, but I promise I’m being as truthful as possible. Before I tell you my editing process, I have a few confessions to make:
- I don’t actually have a process. As someone who has been writing a long time, you’d think I had a full formula to lay out, complete with charts and graphs and formulas for success, but I don’t. I’ve written mostly for myself. I’ve only been actively pursuing publication since September, so I’m still figuring out my process editing wise.
- I’m what some would call an English prodigy. I never tire of saying that. I have to remind myself of it constantly when I can’t seem to write well to save my eternal soul. I got a nearly perfect score on the English portion of the ACT, which was mainly saying whether or not a sentence was wrong and fixing it. My brain is hardwired for copy editing and proofreading. I enjoy it. Red pens make me happy. Feel free to hate me.
- I never revised before my senior year of college Creative Writing class when we were required to revise an earlier work. I didn’t revise for years afterward. I liked to think I was the Jay-Z or Lil Wayne of writing–a one take wonder. Of course, the quality of the material the two of them have put out over the years is debateable enough for me to rethink my writing role models. 😀 My stories benefit greatly from revision. I was an arrogant little prodigy (see above), so it took me a long time to figure this out.
- I have never written a complete first draft. I’ll explain this one later.
Now that you know I am no expert (but kind of am), I’ll share my process. I am a person who edits/revises as I go. I know this is anathema to some, but it’s the only way I can function. I HATE rough drafts and never write them. When I finish a first draft, it is more like a third or fourth draft. I usually write in the mornings and revise later in the day. I print out the day’s writing and take it with me to proofread and make revision notes in the margins. At the weekends, I will read the week’s writings for content and continuity across chapters, development, etc. I perform the most pressing revisions here. About every other week, I try to read through everything I have from a reader’s perspective and make a few more notes.
Once I finish the first draft, I go through chapter by chapter, polishing and making sure all the revisions are completed. I sit down with the entire thing and read it as a reader would once more, addressing anything I feel needs changing before my critique partners get a look at it.
There are times when myprocess is different. When I entered So You Think You Can Write with Pleasure’s Payne, I learned that the Harlequin Love Inspired editors do not like prologues. They want to jump into the story and see the hero and heroine on the page together as quickly as possible. They like larger sections in one point of view without head hopping. They were looking for everything my entry wasn’t.
I wrote until the announcement of the top fifty, then set it aside. When I returned to the manuscript, I scrapped the first 7-10 pages. It was heartwrenching. I hate major revisions, and I loved that prologue, but I had to kill my darlings. I found a spot where the action began and began from there. I set up the heroine’s internal conflict and inciting incident, then got the hero on the page. I sprinkled in expressions of her grief and other important information from scrapped pages. I changed areas of head hopping to one perspective and showed the other character’s feelings through dialogue and body language wherever possible. I hated every bit of it and did it with one eye open and the original tucked away on a flash drive just in case.
And I came out of it with a much stronger story. I proved to myself that I can revise and make my manuscript even better. I don’t have to get it right in one take (that is made up of tens of takes!). I have to step back and let things marinate for a bit before I wade in, but I can do it.
How do you tackle editing and revisions?