Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My editing process

I'm going to talk about my editing process today (since it has been consuming my life lately...although last night I took a break to read some other people's MSes and watch Secret Window, which I've had from Netflix for a month. Somehow, Johnny Depp is hot even when he's crazy.) But before I do that, I'm going to talk all about the shiny new award I got!!

Apparently, I make Shannon at Book Dreaming happy! (Which is great, because she makes me happy, too! She leaves comments and has a fun blog, and that little caterpillar is oh-so-cute!) In order to accept the award, I need to list 10 things that make me happy, then 10 blogs that make me happy.

So...10 things that make me happy:

  1. My husband (most of the time)
  2. My friends
  3. My dogs
  4. Chocolate
  5. Wine
  6. Reading
  7. Writing
  8. Snuggling
  9. When people leave comments on my blog
  10. Napping in the middle of the day
And now, 10 blogs that make me happy! If you're on the list, please feel free to post this on your blog, or not. I just picked some blogs that made me happy, mostly hoping to help more people to visit them and get happy, too. (Some of the blogs I know won't "pass it on," and that's OK. I'm just trying to spread the word about blogs I <3.)
  1. The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler
  2. The First Novels Club
  3. Carol's Prints
  4. The Writer's Hollow
  5. Reading is Sexy
  6. Kimberly Franklin
  7. And Anything Bookish
  8. The Character Therapist
  9. The One-Minute Writer
  10. Bookie Woogie (how could this one NOT make me happy)
OK, now with that housekeeping out of the way...on to the post!

I enjoy reading about other people's editing process. It's fun to get a glimpse into other writers' lives, and I've definitely changed some of my ways thanks to what I've read. Because other people have helped me so much, I'm going to pretend that you all care about my process, too, even though I'm unpublished (hey, minus the character/plot stuff, this is more or less how I edit my journalism stuff, and I've had hundreds of those published! Right?)

After finishing the first draft of my manuscript, I took about a week off just to get away from the manuscript. During that time, I thought about it, and even created character boards. Since then, I've been diligently (for the most part) working on round 1 of my edits. So what does round 1 involve? *Cue boxing-match girl with sign* (I Googled a picture, but everything I found was way too inappropriate for this blog.)

During round 1, I re-read the entire manuscript from the beginning. I edit here and there, and anything I know I want to change (like major revelations that occurred to me during my week off, or plot points that I knew just weren't right while I was writing but I wanted to get through them to the next part) gets changed. I pay attention to grammar, but not like it's the end of the world - I have a hard time ignoring grammar issues (thank you, career in magazine editing), but I'm also not going to spend my time agonizing over how to eliminate that passive voice or kick that adverb to the curb when the whole passage might ultimately get canned, anyway. Mostly this process is just about figuring out where my strengths and weaknesses are, and re-connecting with my manuscript all at once (instead of over the months it took to write the first draft.)

For round 2, I focus on the plot. Is everything consistent? Where are the holes? Are there enough turns and suspenseful things going on? Do I keep the reader engaged? Am I ending every chapter on a note that makes people think, "OMG I HAVE TO KEEP READING!!! OK FINE, ONE MORE CHAPTER!" until before they know it they're done with the book? Are there subplots that are interesting and important but don't take away from the main plot? I choose to look at plot first, then character, because I don't want to change the character's reaction to a plot point that might not even exist later.

During round 3, I go through and look at character. Is every character meaningful? (I can already think of one character that is probably going to be cut as unimportant.) Do all the characters react appropriately to situations? Do they all have internal and external conflicts? Do the good guys have some bad qualities, and the bad guys have at least one redeeming quality? Do their motivations make sense? Do they have trademark phrases/actions, and do they keep up with them throughout the course of the novel? Do I care about the main character (more importantly, will readers care?)

Finally, I take a last careful look at the whole thing and do line edits. I cut all the words I don't want to use - eliminate extraneous "that"s, get rid of adverbs, put a check on my flowery writing, do my darnedest to cut out the passive voice (which is sometimes SO hard because I'm writing in the past tense, but sometimes passive is correct...just not usually).

After all that, I'll send it to a few crit partners and beta readers, apply their input, then hopefully send it to some more partners and gamma readers, then do a final edit before querying!

And that's my process. Sound impossibly long? It is. And it's exhausting to write it out and think about it. But it's working for me so far, and I love feeling close to my novel and really getting my hands dirty. If you want to try editing your novel in one pass, read this. It's an interesting idea, and I might try it sometime, but for now I like my way-too-complicated method...because I'm a complicated girl.

Does this sound like how you edit? Or do you have a simpler method?


  1. Wow. Thank you for taking the time I know it took to share all that with us. It sounds like a solid system. I'm going to bookmark this one and go through it more later.

    Congrats on your award, happy girl! :-)

  2. Sounds like we edit very similarly. I found myself nodding at each paragraph and saying "yup, I do that." :) Great minds edit alike!
    Click for My Blog

  3. We have similar editing styles as well! Except half way through, I got so sick of looking at my WIP that I sent it to my CPs before schedule. I just got their feedback and it's priceless and the timing actually ended up working out :-)

    Since I'm creating a super structured outline with this next project, I'm hoping to cut down on a lot of the editing I had to do with the first one!

    Thanks so much for the shout out!! Your blog makes me happy too :-)


  4. Cool, I love hearing about other people's editing processes. I need to come back and read this again.

    Also thank you so much for sending the award to The First Novels CLub!!:-)

  5. Great post!

    Thanks for sharing. Reading about how you tackle editing informs and inspires, and helps me wrap my arms around my own process. Thanks!

    Congrats on your award as well!

  6. I haven't fully completed my process yet (I'm in a marinating stage between rounds), but my plan sounds a lot like yours!

    And thanks so much for the award!!!!

  7. I know you already got this award, but I couldnt resist awarding you again:-)

  8. thanks for the award! i'll be posting it on my other blog (just so my character therapy blog keeps it's "professional" look - lol!)...and definitely passing it on. :)

    The Character Therapist

  9. Oh my, I've hd this window up for two days and only just saw it minimized behind another. I thought I'd commented already! So sorry....

    Thank you for passing on the happy award!! I'm so flattered. You are too kind.

    BTW, I love reading about other writers' writing/editing processes as well. I love the way you break down your editing, though. A very organized way to look at it, I think. It can be very overwhelming when there is so much to fix, and your method sounds like it would really help to make it feel manageable. Excellent! Thank you for sharing it.


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