Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Beginning the Editing Process (Part 2)
Editing becomes less daunting when we face it one step at a time.
Step 1: To kick start the process after a break you need to reimmerse yourself into your story. The best (and only) way to do this is to read through your entire manuscript (ms). Try to read it as if you are reading it for the first time. Resist the urge to edit. You can make brief notes, but that’s all.
There’s no point line editing at this stage. Let me repeat that: there is no point line editing at this stage. If you do, then you could spend hours looking for just the right word or phrase only to realise down the track the whole section needs to go.
Step 2: Read through your ms again, but this time write up a synopsis or a flow chart (if you haven’t already). The purpose of this is to break the story up into important events and changes in the Main Character’s (MC) external and internal development so that you can see the Big Picture. Some people require visual aids such as index cards or post it notes to shuffle around story elements.
Step 3: eat some chocolate. By this stage you’ll have earned it. You’ll likely need that gentle pick-me-up anyway.
Step 4: Take another look at what you have. Find the weaker elements in your story. Make sure you have the catchy beginning, a tight middle and a satisfying end. You’ll need to watch for character development, likeability and believability. You’ll need to keep an eye on tangents, unresolved elements and hidden discrepancies.
Step 5: eat some more chocolate because next you’ll need to take a look at the details: the superfluous words, the weak phrasing, the inconsistencies. You may have to return to step 3 a few times.
In short, editing is like building your very own croquembouche (profiterole tower). You have to start at the base and build up from a solid platform. Your solid platform is your plot. Once you are happy with the plot, how the story flows, the pace and the conflicts, then and only then is it worth spending time on more detailed editing. The spun sugar for your profiteroles is in the final detail: the right words and phrases; the appropriate sentence length; the correct grammar and formatting.
How often do you read through your ms while you edit? Do you use a different method of editing?
Note: every writer must find a way that works for them. Everyone is different. There is no absolute rule a writer must adhere to – except, “Keep writing!”