Gathering the Editing Tools
When I edited my currently querying book last year, I tried out a variety of methods because there are a lot of ways to go about editing. I threw away what didn't work for me and adapted what did work to my own ways of getting things done. Here's a very rough guide to what I came up with:
Stage One - THE BIG REREAD. Prepare to not feel very good about what you've written but always enjoy the moments when your abilities surprise you - "Ooooh yeah, I am a good writer!"
|Aaah, first draft edit. Look at the red!|
Stage Two - TWEAKING WHILE TYPING. As you type up Stage One's work, you'll find little things you missed and want to change them as you go. My experience of Stage Two last year involved getting so bored editing a three chapter section of the book I cut it out completely and the plot smoothed out instantly!
Stage Three - STAGE ONE AND TWO, REPEAT! Except probably with slightly less self-loathing.
Stage Four - THE BIG PICTURE EDIT. I read each paragraph, wrote a single sentence summary and asked myself a simple question - "Is this moving the plot on?" If I answered yes, paragraph lived to see another draft. If no, I made a note to delete it.
Here's the notebook I kept during my Stage Four edit:
And by this stage, you've been through your manuscript a couple of times so you're pretty sure it's just small things left to deal with. The main thing is to make sure you've been consistent throughout. Check characters have the same hair/eye/skin colour throughout, their names don't change and facts don't contradict themselves. My main character stated she'd wanted to be an eco-friendly businesswoman at the start of the novel but near the end she suddenly decided she'd always wanted to be an architect. Whoops!
Stage Six - OTHER PEOPLE GET THEIR HANDS ON IT. Ooooh yeah, you better believe you need beta readers, and you better believe they are going to show you a thing or two about how not readable your MS really is.
Stage Seven - NO, YOU'RE NOT DONE YET! Once you get it back from the beta readers, do not just type up their suggestions and start sending it out to agencies. Well, maybe you can, but I couldn't. I didn't always agree with my beta readers (because I'm nothing if not stubborn) and given that they are also human, they missed a few things and by the way, it's your job to fix it, not theirs. So Stage Seven is also a Stage One and Two Redux! Have fun!
Stage Eight - BETA READERS STRIKE BACK. If you have lovely beta readers they will re-read your work with the new bits. At this stage it can also be really helpful to ask someone new to read it so the story is fresh to them.
Stage Nine - THE FINAL PUSH. This is the time when any further editing is just swapping things for the sake of doing it. Tweak whatever's really necessary as pointed out by your beta readers and then take a break.
Stage Ten - QUERY TIME! I sat on my book for a couple of weeks before I started querying, and even that probably wasn't long enough. But there comes a point when you have to stop reading what you've got and just take the plunge. At which point I wish you good luck, tea for the rejections and CAKE for the celebrations! :D
|Tea, anyone? ^_^ I'll pop out for cupcakes soon :D|
So there you have it, the way I work my way through drafts. It might look like your method or it may not. It's just what I put together after a lot of trial and error.
What's your best editing tip?