The first thing that I learned about editing was that I really knew very little about the process of editing. Even now, when people hear that I’m editing my first novel, they want to know what that means. And the truth is that it probably means something a little different to each writer, but I’ll share here how it works for me.
In my world, editing is a lot like writing the novel with some of the pieces already in place. There’s a lot of red ink. A lot. Initially I thought I would be intimidated by that, but I’m not. All that red on the page is making my story better. I’ve often been nervous that my writing wasn’t “good enough.” Now I realize that it doesn’t have to be in the beginning. When it isn’t, I have the chance to fix it.
So I’m actually delighting in all that red ink on the page, because I know my story is becoming better and deeper. For the most part right now it’s not spelling and grammar details – it’s content. It’s crossing out, adding in and redefining in a way that helps me to know my characters even better than I did in the initial manuscript. And though there are times when I think it just might take me forever, I already recognize that it’s flowing much faster than the first draft did and I don’t get stuck nearly as often.
Now down to practicalities – and, again, if you’re trying to write or edit a novel, I encourage you to create your own plan. But you’re welcome to take anything from mine that works for you.
I started off by reading through the novel as quickly as I could (and that was harder than I’d thought it would be). I did that because I was writing for over four years and, frankly, there were things in it that I had completely forgotten about. It was nice to rediscover those things – like having coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.
Once I’d read the story and had the general gist (despite some missing pieces), I started at the beginning, page by page, reading the story and thinking about what I would change. There is a lot, but I think that’s okay. I’m not trying to pretend I wrote a perfect novel the first time out; I’m trying to adjust and change and tweak the story until it’s something I’m proud of publishing.
After I get there, I’ve got a group of friends, my very own Book Club, patiently waiting until I’m ready to share it with them and get some honest (!) feedback from some real readers. What did and didn’t they like? Where were they confused? What didn’t ring true? And then fix those things.
I think by that point, I’ll have something serious that I can send out, and who knows where it will go from there. For now, it’s just nice to have a plan and to see myself coming ever closer to the point where my work can stand on its own.
And for those of you who read my last post on the editing process, I have absolutely started reading other people’s books again. Yes, sometimes voice confusion trips me up. But the reason I write is because I love stories, and it wasn’t working out for me to ignore them.
Do you have any tips or best practices that you use while editing or writing?