I’ve got good news and bad news.
The good news is, I have definitely reached the point with my novel, Ravens and Roses, where I have very little writing left to do. There are still a few missing scenes, some background information that needs to be hammered out, and a bunch of scene revisions… but for the most part, it’s ready for the next step. I have a manuscript ready to be edited. Go me!
The bad news is… I have no idea what I’m doing.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I know how to edit. I’m actually quite good at it and I enjoy the process. I like taking a rough piece of work and shaping it into something fluid and brilliant. It’s both fascinating and rewarding. However, I’m realizing that editing an essay or a paper is not the same as editing an entire novel. I’ve never edited more than 20 pages at one time. Now I have 200+ pages to contend with, and my normal editing method isn’t working.
When I edit essays, papers, short stories, or scripts, I read the piece in its entirety. Then I go back and start marking places where sentences are awkward, where things need to be moved, note where more elaboration is needed, and cross out all the darlings to be murdered. I’ll read through a piece 2-5 times, depending on how much work it needs, then I start implementing the revisions, reread that a few times to make sure it works, and then I give it to my beta readers to read it and see how it looks to fresh eyes.
You can see how such a routine is nearly impossible to do with a full manuscript. Or rather, it might not be impossible for a full-time writer. But for me, with a full-time job and weekend commitments, I’m finding it very difficult to get editing done. Editing is such an immersive experience that I need more than 2 hours a day. Usually, I don’t even get that much, and even when I do, I haven’t been able to immerse myself in the story to see how it all works. I can’t closely read 200 pages in 2 hours. I’ll get a quarter of the way through the book if I’m lucky, then I have to yank my mind out of editing to function at work. By the time I come home in the evening, I’ve lost the flow, lost my place, and have to start over again. Then it’s time for bed and the process repeats itself. Ordinarily, I would try to use my weekends to get some immersion in, but work, real life, and social engagements makes that difficult to do or maintain, especially this month.
This might just sound like whining, but trust me, it is a lot easier to squeeze writing into spare moments than editing is. Editing requires a lot of focus; I can’t just switch it on and off, not for something this complex. (Again, if this were a short story, I would not be having this much trouble.) And my goal is to have a draft worthy of submission to book publishers by this fall. How am I going to get through all of the revisions necessary by then? As I’ve said before on The Cat’s Cradle, editing can make or break your book, and I want it to be as perfect as I can make it before submitting it.
The only solution that has occurred to me while writing this entry is to break the rough draft of Ravens and Roses into 10- to 20-page chapters. If I break it into chunks, I can work on each chunk individually and then try to mash them into a cohesive whole. So I will need long spans of uninterrupted time, but perhaps I can put that off until later and lay the ground work for it now. I don’t like looking at divorced sections of a story, but that may be my only option, giving the constraints on my time.
Does anyone else have editing tips or tricks that they use, particularly when dealing with a longer work? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!