1. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    First time editing a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by J Faceless, Nov 23, 2014.

    I finished the first draft of my novel, but editing is taking FOREVER! I wrote something novel length before but I didn't like how it came out so I plan on rewriting it entirely. Therefore this is my first experience editing something of novel length. It is driving me insane, much more than usual. I mean my house is spotless because I'm searching for distractions. Even my cat is sick of playing. I can go a little while without procrastinating, but its nothing at all like writing for me, where the hours just disappear. But seriously if I keep on banging my head against the laptop I'm going to get a concussion.
    So I was hoping to call on the collective wisdom and experiences of all of you, for some tips and strategies.
    Right now my strategy is the following.
    1. General editing, flow, style. typos. Character development. (line by line)
    2. Main Plot development, terms and background info
    3. Romance subplot
    4. other character development
    5. other subplots
    6. Sledgehammer phase
    I could really use your help, I know a lot of it is hampering down and just doing it, but I could definitely use some guidance. For background it's Young Adult, a little over 90,000 words and written on Microsoft Word.GASP! I'd like to avoid a scrivener sales pitch in the replies if i can. Its broken into chapters but I'm redividing a lot of them as i go.
    Thanks for the help.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not sure what your particular issue is. If it's procrastinating, I'm afraid no one can help you with that.

    When I finished the first draft of my current project, I set it aside for several weeks so that when I began editing, I was able to approach it with a fresh outlook. In the interim, I did a lot of unrelated reading. Then, I printed it out, double-spaced with one-inch margins. I read through several times, the first time aloud, making notes in the margins in red pencil or marking the lines themselves. Reading aloud forces you to slow down and I find I catch more that way. My first read-through focused on SPaG errors, but if anything else jumped out at me, I made notes on it. After that, I read through several times, looking for plot consistency issues, chapter balance, timing issues (don't want a character you killed off in Chapter Six popping up again in Chapter Eleven) and - a major concern in a historical novel spanning 500 years - name issues (and, yes, I did discover that I'd used some names more than once).

    Once I was satisfied that I'd made all the notes I could, I sat down and made the corrections in WORD. Then I began reading through again.

    Best of luck with it.
     
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  3. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    I’m pretty much in the same boat you’re in right now. In fact, I’m taking a break from it and working on something else because of the major reworking that will have to be done.

    First piece of advice: print it out. I have no idea why, but something about seeing your work on a printed page makes all kinds of issues pop out at you. You’ll read a sentence you’ve read a dozen times before, and suddenly you’re like “Gah! How did that awful thing stay in there that long?”

    When I did my first edit, I used a notebook as I read through the draft. I put down the page number, then all the notes about that page beside it. Everything from spelling to major plot issues. I didn’t write anything on the draft itself because I wanted to give it to other people to read and make their own comments without a sea of ink marks distracting them. Then I went back to the Word document (yes, I use it too) and made the changes I’d written in the notebook. Each one that I fixed, I crossed out and the ones that were going to take some more time and thought, I circled with a different color to come back to later.

    The only problem I had with this was once I started making the changes, adding, and subtracting things, the page numbers changed from what I’d written in the notebook. They were still close, and I’d written down parts of the sentences so I could find it pretty easily. It may sound like a lot more work and handwriting, but with all the changes I had to make, I'd have run out of room writing on the draft.

    Good luck!
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I second what both @EdFromNY and @jaebird said ...if you haven't already done it, print your story out. Settle down somewhere that isn't your computer and read it.

    I would recommend having a copy you can write on, because it's a lot quicker and immediate than writing notes elsewhere. Jaebird wants to give the copy to others to read ...but I ask why do that, if you're already making changes? There is no point in asking your readers to re-invent the wheel. They'll likely find the same errors you do.

    Better to give each beta reader what you think is an error-free copy (ie up-to-date) and let THEM write in the margins as well. It costs a bit in paper and ink, but it's well worth it. Also see if any of them can take your story electronically as well. They can either print it out themselves or read it off a screen. I've done both, as a writer and also as a beta reader.

    What really does my nut is when a writer gives me something old to beta-read, something they admit they've already changed in another, newer version. That feels like wasting MY time as a reader.

    To save paper, single space your story, divide it into two columns so it looks more like a magazine article than a novel, and print it out. It's amazing how much easier an edit goes, when you have several margins to write in, and your lines are only half as long.

    You might have particular scenes or chapters that you KNOW need work, and it's okay to work on these individually and out of sequence. However, it is extremely important to read straight through your story in chronological order as well. Don't be tempted to skip to the 'good' bits and spend more time re-working them than the 'boring bits.' If there are bits you want to skip over, they need work.

    Also, keep copies (on computer) of the bits you're throwing away as well. In fact, before I start any edit, I always duplicate the document and date it. And save it. (And do backups of course.) That way you won't feel nervous about editing, and if you do take out something you later wish you hadn't, it's still there and you can restore it. This does require a bit of organisation, but you don't need Scrivener for it! Just make sure you date your copies and organise them into named folders that make sense to you.

    I also have a separate file where I put large chunks of text that I've deleted. (I call the file 'deleted bits.') If I take out an entire scene or chapter, or large part of a scene, I copy/paste this into the file. That makes it quicker to find, if I decide to restore it, than going through all of my dated copies. (I don't do this with simple word changes and sentence changes, just the big changes where large ideas are removed.) And yes, I have restored stuff, during my very long edit. Not often, but often enough to be glad I kept what I threw away. :)

    If you find yourself tinkering (changing a word here and there, then changing it back again the next day) then you need to take a break. Wait till you have fresh eyes for the piece before tackling it again—however long that takes. (I took a 5-year break at one stage!) If you keep tinkering, you'll ruin what's good about your writing, and all the joy you found while writing will evaporate.

    While nothing really duplicates the rush of writing first-time and getting a story 'down,' you can learn to find huge pleasure in editing as well. This is where you achieve perfection, or as close to it as any writer can come. Knowing you've finally nailed something—maybe something that has been troubling you and your beta readers for some time—is just about as good a rush as any! Good luck, and have fun.

    By the way, if your novel is anything like your thread starter, I bet it will be fun to read. I especially liked the notion that you procrastinated by playing with your cat so much that the cat got fed up with the game. That's funny. You sound like an original thinker and writer to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
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  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is absolutely right, and there is a reason why. The format of information affects how we perceive it. It affects what we focus on. It affects which information we internalize.

    On forums, especially this one, I almost always edit my posts after posting them. Simply seeing my writing as it appears in the thread, rather than in the textbox, causes me to read it differently and calls my attention to things I did not notice in the textbox. It especially shows me how the information flows as a whole, rather than calling my attention to each sentence in isolation. I feel a bit more like I am reading something written by someone else than something written by me.

    Printing your writing is an especially effective way to force yourself to see your writing in a different format. Other ways include reading it out loud, reading it via rapid serial visual presentation, and even changing things as simple the font, font size, and column width on-screen. Those methods seem bizarre (even to me), but they work.

    One of those weird-but-true psychological aspects of writing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Editing sucks.

    I know there are people who enjoy it, and more power to them, but for me, and, it sounds like, for you, it sucks.

    So, good strategies on being effective with your time, above (although I think you can work around the printout stage by keeping your work on the computer but changing the font style and making it way bigger - like, 24pt or larger. Anything to make the words look different than they did the first time around). But it sounds like you're struggling with motivation as much as anything.

    Do you do any other writing? When I'm editing, it's nice to take breaks and work on another piece (something more FUN!) or do promo stuff or work on my website or whatever. Still productive, but not the dreaded editing. Of course, I'm stretching out the length of the whole process by doing it in bits, so there's really no ultimate solution.

    I set daily goals - I need to get this section back to the editor before I go to bed, I need to finish this chapter before dinner, or whatever. And then once the goal is achieved, anything else is optional.

    It might also be helpful to start working on your synopsis and query letter (assuming you're going to try the agent/publisher route). I find writing the query letter can really help me understand what's most important in my novel, and writing the synopsis helps find structural issues. Since you're probably going to need them anyway, it's not really a waste of time to

    I don't know. I'm a big-picture person, not a perfectionist. I don't think I'm ever going to like editing. Maybe you're the same as me, in which case... try to focus on the end result, rather than the process.

    Good luck with it!
     
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  7. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    Thanks for all of our advice. I just finished my second run through. I have to say what a difference printing it out made. I went through it on my computer and then printed it to do it again. There was a lot i didn't see, from small things like typos to inconsistencies. printing it out made a huge difference to the process, that was really phenomenal advice.
     
  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Ed, Jannert, and some others have given good advice. I'd re-order the priorities, though.

    Getting the plot right and consistent is first and foremost. Weaving in subplots maybe next. Checking consistency and timing is a subset of plotting. You should always be fixing any minor SPaG errors as you work, but a pass aimed just at that should be a later polishing step and not the focus of early editing.

    Indeed, get it pretty well done and polished before using your valuable beta readers.

    I agree that printing it out is valuable, but as an addition to rather than a substitute for spending time re-reading on the screen. I tend to find different things by each method.
     

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