Writer's Wednesday: Editing

This week, since I'm not really in a different place than for my last "Writer's Wednesday" post, I thought I'd share some thoughts on that first edit. The NaNo people have been sending out a lot of stuff on that topic, and I've even looked at some. Go take a look if you can--some of what they say is pretty basic, some is possibly helpful.

Every time I hit this point in a novel (i.e., the first draft is done and has steeped for however long I allow it), I find myself re-inventing the editorial process. The reason, of course, is that editing is hard, and there's no magic formula. But I have found a few things that seem to be good places to start. In my list below, "you" really means "me." Your results may vary.

1. Create a detailed outline. No, not before you write. An outline, scene-by-scene, of what you actually wrote. This time, I started adding location and time to the header for each scene, and halfway through, I realized I needed to include the weather (so embarrassing if your character mentions it's been raining for a week, but three scenes back the sun was shining).

2. Insert notes in the text (I use Bold brackets [ ] to make them easy to find) about things you think need fixing. At this point, struggle to avoid trying to fix them.

3. This is where I get fuzzy... how best to fix the problems? Maybe I can't find a neat plan for it because it's a unique process each time, depending on what needs fixing (in the current WIP, for example, I have a couple of characters who need to appear sooner and more often. I have to figure out where I can put them, and how that changes everything... ugh).

4. After a lot of revision, I get back to stuff I'm pretty clear on. At this point, usually 1-3 rewrites in, I send the book to my beta readers, and do something else while they work on it (I recommend writing short stories. What I usually do is go hiking, which is also a pretty good approach. The key is just not to fret about the story while it's out of your hands).

5. When you've studied the readers'/editors' notes, you get to either return to step 3, or move on to polishing.

6. I have several well-established steps for polishing, which I *thought* I had already written about. I can't find those posts, though, so I'll list them here.
    A. "Final" read-through to tinker with sentences and word choices (repeat as necessary).
    B. Use the "search" function to find and deal with about 15 problem words (some of these are common to most writers, some are personal. I think the list is a post for another day). This is also where in my Pismawallops PTA mysteries I now do a search to make sure that JJ's son Brian didn't become "Brain" anywhere.
    C. Read it aloud, making fixes and adjustments as I go. Ideally, I'd also do this a few steps back, but it's not my favorite thing to do (danged effective, though).
    D. When I'm really sure I'm done, I send it to my proof-reader. When she's done, I'm not allowed to mess with anything more (unless someone tells me about a typo or similar small problem--no rewrites that would let new issues sneak in).

That's pretty much the plan (with that giant hole in the middle where the real work happens). I'm considering trying something the NaNo Revision Guide suggests (see chapter 7): actually rewriting, or retyping the story. They suggest that you open a new file and rewrite the story. Not copy and paste, but type the words again. Even ignore that first draft and (using the much more detailed and reorganized outline and notes you created in Steps 1 & 2 above) rewrite it from scratch. It seems a bit radical, but also maybe fun? Maybe just another way to procrastinate, too--I wonder if I'd get anything any better the second time around?

What I want to know--has anyone tried that radical rewriting approach? Let me know how it worked--or didn't!


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