Maeve asked, ‘Do you have particular questions you ask yourself once you’ve completed your first draft?’ Last year I posted Questions to ask While Editing. Pop over there to see a long list of questions to get into the editing process. Today’s post is about that process:
1. Celebrate. After the mad scramble of finishing the first draft, I recommend you open your favourite sweet treat and celebrate. The first draft is something many people begin, but few finish. It’s a marvellous achievement. Be proud!
2. Take a Break. You are too close to your story to make any clear sense of it at this stage so the best thing to do is take a break. It doesn’t have to be a long break. Only you will know the best timing. Sometimes I only need a week. Other times I need an entire month to gain the distance I need for editing.
3. Read the manuscript through. Now is not the time to make little adjustments. Now is the time to get yourself reacquainted with the big picture. Make brief notes only. Try to keep your attention on plot and structure. Look at pace and timing, your beginning and end, and if there are any slow or unnecessary scenes. Make sure your protagonist is an active participant in your story.
4. Make structural changes. Still don’t worry too much about the little things such as your use of adverbs. No matter how much they might jump up and down to get your attention, there is little point worrying about that until you get the structure right. Otherwise you could spend hours on getting a scene just right only to realise you have to delete it later for the sake of tightening that structure.
5. Read the manuscript through again. Yes, read it from start to finish again making sure the overall structure is right. No skimming allowed. Some writers will share their manuscript at this stage. I did and it helped a great deal. Admittedly my poor crit partner had to put up with some dodgy wording and sentences, but she picked up some helpful pointers for my structure.
6. Start line edits. Find the pesky POV shifts that aren’t meant to be there. Root out the telling when the prose should be showing. Remove any unnecessary words, clichés, repetitions. Do the spit and polish.
7. Get another opinion. This is a great time for beta readers and critique partners. You could be taking a break while they read your manuscript. In fact, a break at any stage is also good—especially if you are unable to see the faults.
8. Read the manuscript again. Yes, read it again. All the way through. Read it out loud. Listen to those rhythms.
9. Now do your copy edits. The small details. Spelling and grammar and the fiddley little details which we inevitably miss no matter how careful we think we are being.
10. Take another break and then read it again before sending it out. Never send out your manuscript less than two weeks after you think you’ve finished. In fact, I often hear agents say don’t send it out before two months. And always read it before sending it.
What's your editing process?