Editing Woes

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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!


6 thoughts on “Editing Woes

  1. I know exactly how you feel. Even after you’ve managed to get some editing done, you feel like you’re going around in circles. Writing is a lot easier than revisions. It requires a lot more of our thought process.

    1. Too true! I used to think that writing was the hardest part. And while writing is still a challenge, it’s very different from editing. It’s easier to tell that you’re making progress with writing since you have a page or word count to look at!

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

  2. Hey kat, once i’m ready to hit that intense editing stage i usually pop over to officemax and get my book printed and bound. Then i pull out whatever pen is nearby and snuggle up with a blanket.

    I think separating your book into chunks is smart. I don’t have too many issues going in and out of the characters and settings, so i can sit down and scribble notes for only ten minutes if i have to.

    I think you’ll find a strategy that works for your lifestyle, but it may take a little trial and error.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I do have two drafts printed out. Draft 1 is basically word vomit, the initial creation where I print out a page as soon as I’m done writing it because I have had too many computers crash on me. Draft 2 is a more selective version, dropping out some of the more obvious sections that are just notes or scenes that don’t work. I did print it out before a bunch of new stuff got dropped it, so it isn’t quite as useful anymore. Maybe I’ll do that print-and-bind for a later draft when I’m a little closer and definitely have no more scenes to write.

      I’m really glad to hear that other folks don’t have a problem dipping in and out of their stories in short intervals. It really shows how everyone is different. Maybe I’ll be able to work up to that point after a few drafts or a few projects. ^_^

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  3. This has helped me to understand something about myself—why I’ve never come close to writing a book of my own. I’m one of those writers who need to have everything very carefully laid out before the actual writing process begins. In a sense, I hit the hump you’re hitting now BEFORE I actually wrote anything down! No wonder I didn’t get very far…

    I definitely identify with your feeling that it’s difficult to work on a complex project with small chunks of time. That has been a limiter for me in so many parts of my life, since I work best when I reach that immersion level (and I find it EXTREMELY frustrating when I’m forced to stop and go to work, or bed, or whatever). It also goes for video projects, home organizational projects, and really ANYTHING that requires synthesizing complex information. I like to dig in and dig deep.

    But life is made for grazers.

    Anyway, one possible suggestion came to mind. (I realize this is too late, but I’m still going to share it for what it’s worth.) When you do your chunks, make outlines to represent them (not the original outlines you might have used when you wrote them, but new ones that represent what’s actually on the page). It might be easier to do the macro-level editing if you’re looking at a simplified version of the whole project. Then, once you’re sure the overall story is self-consistent, you can attack the micro-level editing in chunks.

    1. I hear you. When I was really young, I wrote willy-nilly which meant all my projects stalled because I had no idea where I was going. Then I went the other extreme and needed to have every little detail laid out before I started writing. After NaNoWriMo 2010, I think I broke the second habit, although I still like having project summaries or outlines. And your suggestion about creating mini-outlines for what’s on the page isn’t coming too late (I’m only 50 or 60 pages in and it’s bloody JUNE, ugh). And it’s a good idea that might help with the big pieces because outlines are SO much easier to read in a short span. I’ll give that a shot and see how it turns out. Thanks!

      A big problem that I’m still running into are the scenes that still need to be written. I’ve got a really important section that needs to establish the unique value of Ryn and her Ravens in battle… and I have NO idea how to do it. I’m combing through books on famous, key battles for ideas on how to work it. Because, accuracy. >_<

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