Friday, July 17, 2009

Editing Your Own Work

It's that time of the week again.  Rebecca asked of us: how do you edit your own work?

Well, let's see.  After the first draft of my novel, I had planned on using Sol Stein's triage method (which is pretty much working backwards from the worst scene in the book to the next worst and so on).  But instead, I decided to rewrite the whole thing because the first draft was unsalvageable with the new plot changes.  I did do part of the editing process before I scrapped it and rewrote.

Hypothetically, this is what happens from beginning to end.  First, I set the draft in a drawer (somewhere I can't see it) and leave it there for a minimum of a week.  Most professionals (editors, authors) will tell you to forget about it.  They're totally lying.  I have no idea how you can possibly forget about your novel for more than an hour at a time.  At least, I can't.  I spend so much mental time with my characters it's like asking me not to breathe for a week.  So instead, every time you begin to think about your novel you should quickly fill that space in your head with a) thoughts of your next novel or b) food.  Go buy some food and shove your face, preferably with something that is thoroughly unhealthy.  Gaining weight is a side-effect of editing, did I mention this?  Or find the friends you lost while holing yourself up the last week of writing the first draft and go buy lots of pretty clothes.  Or if you're a boy, whatever equivalent boys like to spend money on. 

After this period of forced separation, I'll read the manuscript once through making only sparse notes about my overall feelings.  Then, the second time I read it, I mark it up with different color pens.  Partly because different colored pens look cooler and all professional, but I do blue for plot holes and story problems, and red for line edits.  

To actually fix up the thing, I plan on rewriting/editing scenes from worst to best.  Going chronologically is boring for me.  Oh, I think I forgot to say earlier that I print out the manuscript. Single-spaced with 1 and 1/4 inch margins.  I know a lot of people say double-spaced for editing is better, but I can't bear to waste that much paper.  But I do print it out, because editing on a computer screen is impossible.  I'm already visually challenged as it is; I don't need to go blind before I can legally drink.  

Then, of course, send it out to many betas and friends.  Because some of them probably won't actually read it (the non-writerly type), so shove it at as many people as possible.  I also like to print up a comment sheet with specific questions as to what did or did not work and which characters suck.  That sort of thing.  Then more rewriting and more editing and more rewriting until your fingers fall off and your eyes sink in and you absolutely utterly despise MS Word and everything associated with your novel.

I suppose that's how it works.  I'll let you know when I get there.

Friday: here

And next week:

Monday: Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom
Tuesday: Me
Wednesday: Lin Wang - Teen Writer
Thursday: Sometimes Helpful Nonsense
Friday: Girl With A Notebook

1 comment:

  1. That's so totally organized. You're smart to print it out. That way you're not tempted to rewrite every single scene, over and over and over again.
    Good post and good luck.