Advice, Craft, Editing, Feedback, Revision, Writing

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

Craft, Editing, Revision, Writing

Did I Really Write That?

Once upon a time, I decided to finally keep the promise I’d made to myself many times in my life: I’d write a novel. The year was 1999. At that time, most of the books I read were written by Stephen King or Maeve Binchy, so I guess it’s logical that I set out to write a character-driven paranormal story. I started writing in September and finished in the spring of 2000.

Somewhere during those months, I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) not because I was writing a romance, but because they were the only writing group I could find in my area. After that I did start calling it a paranormal romance and even entered the first three chapters in a national contest. The judges’ comments were unanimous: This is not a romance!

Okay then. I revised it to straight horror … or paranormal … or whatever you call a novel about reincarnation and an evil spirit.

And now, fourteen years later, I’m revising that novel again. In the intervening years, I pulled up that file and played at revision, but never got very far before real life called me away. So, when I pulled it up again this year, the beginning chapters seemed in pretty good shape. I even blogged at the beginning of this month that I’d looked through it and found the writing quality not as bad as I’d feared.

I just didn’t look far enough or read closely enough.

About halfway through, I hit the chapters that hadn’t been touched since 2000. Oh my, was I in love with dialogue tags back then. I used them for about sixty percent of the lines … in a conversation between only two people! And some of those tags were “telling” ones: “he growled” or “he huffed” or “she begged.” But even when I used plain old said, often I tacked on an adverb: “he said angrily” or “she said brightly” instead of making the dialogue and action do the work.

But the worst error, the one that really made me cringe, is in a love scene. No, I didn’t use silly euphemisms for body parts, though I did make the mistake of having the main character, a construction worker, use unlikely flowery language. But most egregious is the messy point of view. Though I’ve used three viewpoints in this novel, those are confined to one per scene or chapter (third person limited.) But in this love scene, the POV ping pongs from his to hers throughout (omniscient.)

Fortunately, I’d found only an occasional POV slip in all the previous chapters. But this scene … wow! Now, I have to decide from which character’s viewpoint the scene is best told and get to editing. The most rewarding thing about this revision is catching these mistakes. I’ve learned a lot about the craft in fourteen years … and I’m still learning.

When you look back at your older work, whatever that is, do you see progress—or were you great from the beginning?

 

Linda

Feedback, Fiction, Revision, Writing

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 …

Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Revision, Writing

Imminent book demise averted!

You may have noticed, it’s been over a week since I last wrote a real post—and if you didn’t notice, please don’t tell me. I’d like to keep the illusion that you’re all hanging on my every word. Anyway, I’ve been busy editing and revising An Illusion of Trust.  The editing was no problem. Then along came revisions.

Actually, part of those went well too. I added two short scenes and made minor revisions to another. But the biggie stumped me. So I took a break and read—a whole book. I still couldn’t think how to revise. So I looked at a few thousand stock images for the cover. Still nothing.  So I printed out my scene synopsis and marked the four problematic ones because seeing something in print often wakes my Muse.

This time she only opened one eye and mumbled a few words. So I did the logical thing. I decided not to revise those scenes. I’m just kidding, of course. I decided to toss the whole book.

Over-reaction? Maybe, but I was frustrated. However … I took one last stab at the four scenes. I decide there were good reasons not to change one of them, but I made notes on ways to subtly revise the other three. I knew that wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t fix the problem my alpha reader cited. So I started an email to tell her I wasn’t a good enough writer to salvage the book. But then I decided, before I gave up, I’d show her the only changes I came up with. And …

She said, “You need to take ‘I’m ready to just walk away from this book’ out of your vocabulary forever.” She also said the revisions I’d suggested were “perfect”. So … yeah. I’ve made those revisions and now I’m doing another read-through before I send it off to beta readers.

Want to hear something funny? Over-reaction was the issue she wanted me to fix. Now can you imagine me having a character do that? 😉

Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Revision, Writing

Whence cometh thy critique?

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

I am working on both a novel and some short stories. Oooh, I just thought of how Demetri Martin writes with both hands at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could type on two keyboards simultaneously—one for the short story and the other for the novel chapter? I could be as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. Not as good a writer, of course, but equally prolific. (Forgive me, I’m writing this with a headache.)

ANYWAY, I’ve been wondering how I’ll get critique on my works-in-progress. I no longer have access to a live critique group, and I’ve never been able to work up enthusiasm for joining online groups where I know no one—or more importantly—know nothing about anyone’s writing skills.

That led me to wondering how you all get feedback on your work. Do you seek it from one, a few, or many? Do you prefer live groups or virtual? Have those preferences changed over time? If you’re in a group, how does yours work? Specifically: How often do you meet? Do you read aloud? Do you receive the work ahead of time and critique at home, so you only discuss it at the meeting? How many members do you think is optimum? Do you critique all lengths of work?

What say ye?

Image © Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948