I believe at some point I wrote a self-confident blog post about giving myself until June to finish the edit of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, but predicting I wouldn't need past April. Well, to quote Dylan Moran as Bernard Black: "Don't make me laugh — bitterly!"
To be fair, months went by when I didn't edit anything, during which I wallowed in despair over not knowing how to fix a few major hitches in the plot. At some point I wailed on Twitter that Past Me had bestowed too much confidence on Future Me when it came to untangling a particular problem. When you're zipping along, doing line edits and making a few changes, occasionally chopping out unnecessary scenes, it's a bit of a roadblock to come up against a whole chapter or two — let alone an entire arc — that needs a ground-up rewrite before it's possible to move on.
I'm slowly, slowly chipping my way through it; I think (knock on wood) I've worked out the plot kinks to my satisfaction, and fixed a huge hole that would've cropped up later on, so I can start editing. Of course, now it's almost time for NaNoWriMo 2011, but that's a different story.
To apologize for my absence (and to procrastinate a little), let's have some pictures of how I edit novels!
First, this is not how I edit short stories. With short stories, I print them out, then type up a new copy, bypassing the hard-copy edit stage. Novels, on the other hand, require something a bit more robust. I don't write terrible first drafts because my OCD won't allow it, but I do want the final version to be even better, so when I edit, I'm looking for plot, continuity, character, and whatever else on top of the usual grammar and typos.
My editing is two-fold: I write directly on a print-out of the draft, and I make notes in a separate notebook so I can flick through and look for changes later; after this, I look at my notes and type up the next version in Scrivener. This is so I can keep track; when I'm going through the next draft, I can make sure that the note on page 80 to insert a scene with the antagonist's partner actually happens. I also find that having physical evidence works better to motivate me.
My Writing Tools:
- 1 hard-copy of the draft in a sturdy binder
- cheap lined notebook for edit notes
- Moleskine for brainstorming
- multicoloured pens
- 5 colours of post-its
- pink: line edits
- blue: continuity
- green: plot
- yellow: characterisation/dialogue
- orange: major revisions
- 5 highlighters (to match the post-its)
Hard Copy Editing:
I read through the draft and make changes as I go. Small changes — tightening, weak phrasing, grammar, typos, dialogue, description details, etc. — go right on the page. Larger changes get marked, with a note to fix them on the computer later.
Sometimes the changes are small:
Sometimes they're not so small:
And sometimes I mark entire pages, scenes, or chapters for rewrite on the computer:
Notebook — Chapter Overview:
At the beginning of each chapter, I make notes about general what I need to do in it. This helps me keep track later, when I want to make sure I've implemented all the changes I need to.
Notebook — Individual Pages:
Once I make a change on the hard-copy, I add a post-it to the notebook, to remind myself of what I just did. I do this for every single page in the entire draft. If no changes get made (note: this has never happened) I would still make an entry for that page, noting this.
What it looks like when changes are light:
What it looks like when changes are a bit more substantial:
The Brainstorming Notebook:
This is for when things go terribly wrong. An entire chapter needs rewriting; I find a plot hole that makes the entire third act make no sense; I have no idea what a character looks like at the end of a draft. Here's where I scribble notes to myself and don't show anyone else, because I whine a lot.
This is the main reason why I prefer the hard-copy method — it looks impressive! Sure, I could pull up both versions of the document in Scrivener, but it doesn't have the same kind of visual punch. When I'm trying to justify ths time spent to other people — and as a writer, this happens a lot — it helps to have a big ol' binder chock-full of colourful notes to "prove" I've been working hard.
And there you have it! How do you edit?