1. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Teach Me How to Edit!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zoupskim, Jul 22, 2016.

    As seen here Zoupskim's Resolution I am attempting to edit my first draft.

    So far I feel it is going well, but I am obviously biased. What are some pointers experienced or knowledgeable writers have on the editing process for Novel length manuscripts?
     
  2. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I'm checking in to watch this thread because I'm currently editing my first novel. It's proving to be more difficult than writing the flipping thing. Mostly because I'm so paralyzed by self-doubt at this point.
     
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  3. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can never learn something you THINK you know how to do.
     
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  4. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I don't even pretend to be a competent writer, haha!
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Editing is always more difficult than writing the first draft. Your first draft is allowed to be a mess. Your edited manuscript should be perfect.

    I've actually asked this kind of question before. Some people think editing is just correcting SPaG errors. For others, it's a top-down rewrite of the whole thing. I heard once that D.H. Lawrence would write his second drafts from scratch without even looking at the first draft. That might be a bit extreme for some, but there it is.

    It can be instructive to see how famous and celebrated writers have handled revisions. Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms are available now in editions that include earlier drafts - very cool! You might want to check them out.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @zoupskim - Try breaking the process down into small, do-able tasks, and tackle each one individually. What do you think your main problems are? Identify them, and go through and get each of them sorted. Don't try to perfect the whole piece at once. Concentrate on one problem at a time.

    For example, if you realise you've made one character into a weepy wreck, and you want that person to show a bit more backbone, go through the whole story and tweak that issue (and any problems the tweaking created.) Then go back to the beginning and tackle another issue. Have any of your beta readers pointed out things that bothered them? Considering what they've said will give you something else to work on.

    Also, have you given yourself enough time since you wrote the original draft? You need to be able to look at it with fresh eyes, almost as if you were not the person who wrote it. You need to be willing to chuck anything that's not working (including your favourite bits, if need be) and be willing to make any changes necessary to keep the story moving forward, on track.

    F0r me, distance was the key to getting my editing brain working.

    You need to take a detached look at structure, at pace, at how the story actually works. To recognise plot holes. To see that one of your characters had a personality transplant part way through Chapter 14. To see where the story slows down unintentionally. Where are the passages you tend to skip? Things like that.

    What's missing from your story? What have you got too much of? Are there issues or incidents you've been repeating unnecessarily? Do you have dialogue that should be streamlined, because the characters' speeches fill up the page but don't always move the story forward?

    These are the kinds of problems you look for during an edit—as well as tinkering with word choice and sentence structure—but you're unlikely to even see these problems while you're still in the same frame of mind you were in when you wrote it.

    There are lots of good books out there about editing. Maybe trawl through Amazon and pick up a few titles. Or google the subject of editing a first draft and see what you come up with.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Assuming you're going to seek traditional publication you're probably going to need to do a synopsis at some point, and I think it can be useful to do this after finishing the first draft. Work through your MS chapter by chapter, and as you go, figure out what the main events are. If you hit a section where there doesn't seem to be a main event, take note. The events don't have to be big action sequences, but you should be able to say why this chunk of the book is important - "X realizes he's been blaming Y for the wrong things" is just as valid as "X jettisons out of the fighter jet and lands behind enemy lines."

    When you've got your synopsis sorted out, take a look at it and see if everything fits in where it should be, if there are extra parts that aren't needed, if there needs to be more added in order for things to make sense... whatever. You're essentially looking at the structure of your novel, but you're doing it in a simplified format.

    Make changes as needed.

    I also like to write a version of the blurb or query letter at this point, for similar reasons - I'm testing whether I can boil the story down and recognize what's important.

    Once you're satisfied that the big picture works, I think it's really valuable to read your MS out loud, or have a computer/friend read it to you, or at least print it out in a larger and different font than your working text and read it over, making sure things flow the way you want them to.

    You've probably been picking out little SPAG issues as you go, because it's pretty hard to leave them alone once you see them.

    At this stage I'd say it's ready for a beta reader (or, preferably, several beta readers). Put the book away and try not to think about it while you're waiting for their replies, and wait for all of their replies before you start making changes. It happens fairly often, at least to me, that one beta reader will really like an aspect that another beta reader didn't care for. If you can combine all the feedback into one mass you can make a more intelligent decision about what's working and what isn't.

    Then change whatever you think needs to be changed, give it at least one-more read over (if you've made significant changes, try to find a whole new batch of betas), and send it out. Yay!

    ETA: In the name of honesty I should admit that I don't do all this for every book. It's what I did when I started, and what I still do if I'm trying something new (new genre, new style, new publishing method, etc.). But if I'm sending an MS to a familiar editor at a familiar company in a familiar genre and style? I write the first draft, patch up any of the big issues I noted as I was going, let it rest for a couple months, read it over, change anything I catch, and then send it off. The editor can suggest more changes if she thinks they're needed. I HATE EDITING.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  8. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I'm a meticulous editor. By the time I'm willing to declare a story "finished" I've usually read through it and made changes at least thirty times. I've done the first 70 pages of my novel over 50 times. There are so many things to consider when editing I can't imagine reading through a story fewer than 15-20 times and expecting it to be of "finished" quality, but that's just me.

    My general strategy when writing a story is to edit whatever I wrote the previous day before writing anything new to help ensure continuity and to eliminate spelling and grammar errors from the get-go. It also serves the dual-purpose of getting me back into the proper mindset to continue writing. I'll do various "complete" edits at different stages of the writing process as well, meaning I'll reread everything I've written thus far and edit it before I continue writing the rest of the story.

    When I feel like I'm getting close to what I want--there are no more SPaG errors, plot holes have been eliminated, characters maintain their own unique tone throughout the piece (I struggle with that quite a bit), I've expanded. condensed, or eliminated all the scenes I identified as incomplete or awkward, etc.--then I reread it again from the beginning and focus on language. Are there any lazy similes, metaphors, adverbs, or just tired words in general that I can improve or rewrite? What about passive language I can eliminate? Are there self-indulgent sentences or, God forbid, whole paragraphs that can be scrapped or rewritten?

    I'll also echo what others have said: Once you've hit the editing pretty hard and your story is starting to resemble what you imagined when you began writing it, put it aside for a while and look at it with fresh eyes later. I'm always blown away how much easier it is to hack apart a story once I've moved on to other things for a couple of weeks. You also can't focus on everything at once. It's too daunting.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, all of this.

    I especially like the idea of writing a synopsis early, to identify structure. Great trick. I'll try that one myself when I finish my next novel.

    And I also like the implied point, that you shouldn't keep giving your piece to the same betas over and over, to get their approval for what you've changed. (Unless they are officially or unofficially co-editing your book with you.) Aside from the fact they'll probably not want to read the same MS over again, you need fresh eyes each time. Make changes based on what your first batch of betas said, then give the story to a new group. If they don't identify the same problems, then you've probably sorted them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow. Do you get projects completed?

    I hate editing, so I try really hard to write clean, cohesive first drafts that won't need much. If I had to do 20 rounds of editing on a novel I think I'd quit writing altogether.

    Different styles!
     
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  11. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll explain my writing method to help hone in any problems I might have, and so that you can see my mindset, and any limitations.

    I've been playing catch up with my imagination as I write, with scenes planned in my head and on paper for months. I do constant mind edits as I go, honing in on setting weaknesses, character motivations, etc. I write down all these notes, but make sure they fit with the main story I decided to tell.

    I can tell you what is in every chapter of the manuscript, it's narrative purpose within the story, and what the main notes on it are.

    Setting- I knew how this story ended before I started on the text. It's just a story of a country and people loosing their identity in a war, with scifi flavor to speed up and horrify us with applications of future ideas or dramatic examples of modern ones.

    Characters- I imagined all the main characters and their ideas throughout the day, and wrote little notes on them at the end of the day. I considered how they interacted, and what would they do if in certain situations. I tried to make them mostly all different and unique, with a few key traits that tie them together and give them a reason to talk to each other.

    Plot- I've played hundreds of little scenarios in my head of the three MCs talking, eating, fighting etc, trying to keep their voices consistent. I thought through and visualized in my head a suitible series of conflicts, battles, and problems, and considered which conflicts should be shown and what they should say. From this 'day dreaming' I formed the outline for the story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like you've certainly worked hard on this.

    I think editing bridges the gap between what you think you said, and what people actually pick up. Now is the time to find out if your story actually works for somebody else. Get betas on board, if you can. Their feedback is invaluable.
     
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  13. nastyjman
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    Do developmental edits first before doing any SPaG.

    What developmental edit entails are these: making sure scenes flow right, making sure the structure of the story is cohesive (no plotholes or inconsistencies), making sure the theme is grounded, etc. You start with a bird's-eye view first before you get in the nitty-gritty of things. What's the use of SPaG when your scene or act or story is not working right?

    Check out Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. I believe he has it free on his website. What he offers is a structure on how to do a developmental edit on your manuscript.
     
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  14. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I enjoy editing. Maybe it's the teacher in me. I primarily write short stories, so editing 20+ times is a little more bearable than it would be for novels. I did get my novel to what I considered a "finished" state after about a year of working on it exclusively (including writing and editing), but I've since decided to re-edit it this fall prior to seeking a publisher for it. Honestly, I don't much care for when a project is finished, just that the completed project meets my own standards. I'm not published yet, so I have no deadlines.

    Have you considered turning your mind edits into actual edits? What works for me won't necessarily work for you, but I often find that when I write an idea down to save for later it just doesn't have the same effect on me when I revisit it to add it to the story. I've had to scrap a lot of good ideas because of that.

    Rather than critiquing your method, which sounds pretty detailed, it might be more valuable to identify what you feel are your shortcomings in editing. It sounds like you have a solid system that works for you, and if you feel it's going well then it probably is. Next step: beta readers!
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know if you've got a Kindle Fire or not, but apparently if you do, you can upload your book on to the Kindle (in Docs) ... and the Kindle can read it back to you. One of the women at our local writers' group just got a new Kindle Fire, and she gave us a demonstration. Amazing. Really good reader voice that doesn't struggle too badly with dialect. This method is much easier than transfering the document to some other kind of voice recognition thing.

    All you need to do is format the MS in a reasonable way—chapter breaks, etc—using one of the fonts that Kindle recognises (I use Times New Roman, but there are others.) Send the MS to Kindle as an attachment via email (using your Kindle email address with the word 'convert' in the subject line, followed by the name of your book) in either a Rich Text Format or Word (or possible a PDF ...haven't tried that one) and it will appear as a 'book' on your Kindle. Presto.

    I've just got a Paperwhite, so mine doesn't talk. However, I've had no bother getting my book onto my personal Kindle. Nice to see it like that. Looks professional.
     
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  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got one of the old-school Kindles from when they first came out (when they were just "Kindles" without any modifiers) and it will read aloud. But the voice is pretty digitized and strange. Maybe they improved it for the the Fire?
     
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  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I hate, loathe and despise editing. At least after the first run through. The first read I'm pleased and happily tweaking things. But the third and fourth read when I'm trying to turn walls of dialogue into exposition and smaller scenes, when I'm trying to bring out themes and ditch things that make no sense but I'm hanging on to them like they're precious jewels. When I'm trying to trim every goofy metaphor and smooth out my rough spots and contemplate my commas - then I'm starting to hate my own story.
     
  18. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here is an article I wrote not too long ago that might provide some effective methods to employ when editing a novel-length work.

    Link: Five Strategies for Self-Editing

    In any case, remember it will take multiple passes and revision efforts. Focus on word choice and plot holes, in one pass for example (while also fixing things you note like typos). Then on the next, maybe focus on dialogue and description. Trying to fix everything at once can be troublesome and less effective. Also, keep a notebook by your side, to jot down concerns to address at another time, especially if it's something that might take some thought and slow you down on the current revision pass.

    Whatever works for you, is the right way to go about it.

    Good luck as you press forward.
     
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  19. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never heard of changing the font, but it makes so much sense.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    YOU HEARD OF CHANGING THE FONT IN POST #7!!!

    (Probably you missed it because you were so overwhelmed with all my other wisdom. It's okay. I understand.)
     
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  21. Laurin Kelly
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    When editing my manuscript for publisher submission, I had it printed at FedEx office and went through it with a red pen old school style. I'm not sure why, but it's much easier for me to edit from hard copy than a screen. I used to work on it at the library, and had a couple of people ask if I was working on a thesis or dissertation. :)
     
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  22. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    I totally will admit I missed that advice from your post, but what stuck for me in your post was the synopsis advice. I don't have a SET synopsis, but have thought about a few overall themes.
     
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  23. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Straight forward question. Within the narrative of third person limited when a character is thinking, pondering, or wondering, should the character ASK a question, or should they SAY they are asking a question. Example:

    "He wondered if the shot would hurt."

    Or...

    "Would this shot hurt?"
     
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  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is a stylistic choice, and is context-dependent. Certain writers, writing third-person limited about certain characters, would do one, and others would do the other. To me, actually asking the question makes for a slightly closer third-person; that may be a consideration, as well.
     
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  25. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I much prefer the latter. I'll regularly delve into particular characters' thoughts even if the narration is third person. I tend to write their thoughts in italics without quotations.

    Example: Hank retched over the side of the yacht. It was a miserable time, and it had been since he boarded. What the hell was I thinking? I always get sick at sea! The cute blonde from the pier walked past him on her way to the top deck. Oh yeah. That's what I was thinking.

     
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