The Many Ways I Edit My Manuscripts, part 2

In my last post, I shared how I make lists in preparation for editing. Now I’ll share my process of editing a manuscript. I think most of this process would apply whether or not you’re an author publisher like me. The number of editing rounds may vary with each book, but this is my general process.

editingAs I said before, I do some editing while I’m writing the first draft. Actually, since I edit sentences and paragraphs immediately after writing them and then again as I reread the previous session’s writing in preparation to continue, I do a fair bit of micro-editing during first draft stage.

My next round is a macro-edit done within my writing software (Scrivener). As I read through the entire manuscript, I’m looking for plot holes and continuity issues. I also make notes on anything I need to verify with research. At this point, I’m checking off some items on the editing lists I mentioned last time. And because I write the dialogue for a scene first, I’m also checking to see if I have enough actions and descriptions. (Though it’s almost certain my beta readers will point out I need more.)

Of course, to try to fool my eyes into thinking I’m reading these words for the first time, I need to take a break. Usually, at this stage, I send my file to my alpha reader. Yes, I know, the true alpha is me, so maybe I should say my alpha-beta reader. While I wait for her feedback, I try to busy myself with writing something else or read a book or two.

After I receive the alpha-beta feedback, I edit and revise accordingly. My next step is to print out the manuscript, double-spaced so there’s room to make notes and corrections. Once again, I read from beginning to end, using both red pencil and highlighters during this edit. I also consult my editing lists. Then I transfer this editing to my computer file.

Then it’s time to send the file to my beta readers. Again trying to fool my eyes, I also send the file to my Kindle and read it that way. And then with the beta feedback and any notes I’ve made during my digital read, I go through the manuscript making edits and revisions.

During these editing rounds, I keep up a dialogue on the changes with my alpha-beta reader who, in effect, acts as my editor. If you can afford to hire a professional editor—or two—do so. You may want to enlist a content editor as well as a copyeditor (they serve different purposes), but my budget does not allow for that. However, I’m very lucky to have accomplished writer friends to call upon for these services.

Now, I want to tell you about an editing method I’d seen recommended many times, but I tried for the first time with my latest manuscript. For my final round of editing, I read backwards. I started at the end and read each sentence one by one. I couldn’t believe the typos, missing punctuation, and just plain clumsy syntax I found—some of which, I’m sure, I introduced during my editing rounds.

For me, reading backwards gave me the “freshest eyes” of all. Reading that way wouldn’t serve to find continuity errors, of course, but as a copyedit, it works great. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend you do.

I hope you’re enjoying life!

Linda

Skype with me at your risk!

Okay, so I asked James Garcia, Jr., a nice guy and accomplished writer, to read and give me feedback on one of my projects. Jimmy, as he’ll ask you to call him, is an extrovert. I am not. Though I would have been satisfied with an email exchange, he wanted to discuss his feedback in person. As it turned out, he didn’t get his way—but neither did I.

James Garcia, Jr.We arranged a Skype session on Saturday night. I’m not much of a Skype person. Previously, I’d used it only to talk to my son and grandchildren who live in a different state. But I combed my hair and showed up. He said he thought I might chicken out and not hit the video call button when he rang me. But hit it I did. Jimmy is used to doing podcasts for his readers to enjoy, so he was relaxed. I drank a glass of wine. And then I babbled, like I always do when I’m nervous.

But we talked about writing in general and we talked about my project specifically. And it made me realize how much I miss being a member of a live writers’ group where you can brainstorm and get immediate answers to questions about feedback and all that good writerly stuff.  I think Jimmy would have ended the call at least thirty minutes earlier than we did, but he couldn’t shut me up.

I ended up with some ideas on how to improve my manuscript and little more social confidence. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to Skype with another writer, but I know I could and survive the experience. And if I do it again, I’ll warn the other participant they might need to set a time limit.

So thank you for “pushing” me, Jimmy.

Visit Jimmy’s blog and check out his books.

 

Linda

Mélange à trois … encore!

Good things come in threes, right? Well, today I’m sharing three little good things in this short post because I’ve started about five other posts since I published the last one and abandoned them all for one reason or another. By the way, if you misread the title* of this post you’re going to be disappointed. 😉

*The encore appears in the title because I used this silly bit of titillation once before.

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troisScrivener Update:  Recently, I blogged about my first week’s experience with using Scrivener to write and organize all the files associated with a novel. I still love it. I now have projects set up for three novels. It makes me laugh to remember that I didn’t care for the program the first time I tried it. And I expect I’ll be even more pleased with it after I learn all the ins and outs.

Download the free trial, for Mac or Windows, and try it for 30 days!

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Book Covers:  My books are printed by Createspace and, at the time they were published, a glossy cover was my only choice. Now, Createspace offers matte finish as an option. Since, in my opinion, glossy covers are more appropriate for non-fiction or children’s books, I switched to matte and ordered copies for myself. They arrived this past Saturday, and I’m very pleased. For the first time the colors are accurate.

I was never happy with the printed cover of The Brevity of Roses because it had a yellow tint, edging the pink letters of the title toward salmon. Apparently, that was caused by the glossy film overlay because the title appears in a true pink with the matte finish.

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Alpha, beta, critique:  Actually, the correct order is critique, alpha, beta, but it sounds better in A-B-C order. I’m talking about stages of feedback on your writing. One of the reasons I joined Women’s Fiction Writers Association was to find critique partners who write what I write. My first attempt didn’t work out. Of course, since the novel I was working on at that time is now waiting in line and the one I’m currently working on is not women’s fiction, I guess that failed attempt doesn’t matter.

So, again, I’m working without in-progress critique, which means the first person who reads “Forever” will be my alpha reader. I think I have one lined up—she’s a very busy lady, so her availability probably depends on when I have an alpha-ready draft completed. After the alpha edit, I’ll call for betas. But first, I’m writing, writing, writing.

Question of the day: Do you seek A-B-C feedback on your work?

Linda

It’s a good thing I don’t write thrillers!

Recently, a lovely writer friend, acting as my omega reader, suggested I increase the tension in the last third of my next book, An Illusion of Trust. That could only make it a better book, right? She even explained further what she meant by that. Okay, I thought, no problem.

Yeah, right.

tensionNow I have 100 pages of manuscript daring me to revise them. I’m not good with tension. I don’t read (or watch) many thrillers because I can’t stand the tension. Even in non-thriller fiction, I’m often tempted to peek ahead because I can’t take waiting to see how things work out. So writing tension does not come easy for me.

One of my first beta readers for this book, suggested I prolong the mystery a bit in one scene. Obviously, I tend to reveal too quickly. My omega reader commented that I do a good job of building tension and then releasing it just a bit in the first two-thirds of Illusion, so it would seem I just need to leave out the release in the last third. Why is that so hard?

Of course—as usual—I’m over-thinking this task. I just need to leave a few points unresolved until later in the story. I might only need to voice more of my main character’s thoughts a little more, to show that uncertainty still exists. Yes.

So …

Okay.

Yeah.

Any minute now …

A letter from my Muse

Listen up, Linda!

I’ve taken all I can take these last three weeks. Your emotional roller coaster is making me sick. Chill the heck out. You’re a writer. Writers write. And writers, if they’re smart, let trusted writers read their work and give them feedback. And if those writers are any help at all, they give you honest critique. Got it?

So they told you the book isn’t done. So they suggested more than a few little tweaks. Get over it. Stop this rush to worst case scenario. You are not a fake. You are not the worst writer in the world. You are not too stupid or too old to learn (though you just might be too stubborn). And you are not going to delete your blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account.

And, above all else, you are not going to throw this book out and start another one.

Get a grip. Quit your whining. Stop your bellyaching.  Walk out on the pity party and lock the door behind you.

GET TO WORK.

You have a good story, but we’re about to make it fantastic. Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

Signed, Your wise and patient Muse

Geez, the stuff a Muse has to put up with.