I apologise, it’s been a while since I shared anything about my WIP (work in progress). I am working on it, I promise! I’m currently editing my way through the second draft, slowly but (somewhat) surely.
I’m about half way through now and I’m already aware there are going to be numerous revisions. Along with this epiphany, there have been a few others; some positive, some not so positive and some weird. So, I thought I’d share what I’ve found so far with the rest of you lovely writing/editing folk.
1. Check and Double Check That You’ve Actually Finished
Having empty chapters or a page full of notes in the middle of your book does not count as it being ‘finished’. I had quite a few of these in my previous drafts and I kept thinking, ‘it’s fine, that bit will only take five minutes!’ I was so, so wrong. Those incy wincy chapters often changed the whole tone and narrative of mŶ story, whether intentionally or not.
A chapter that originally read: [CHAPTER WHERE SO-AND-SO DOES BLA-BLA-BLA] would end up becoming the pinnacle of my whole story, or painfully boring and usless – there was no inbetween really…
Do yourself a favour and fill in all the blanks before you start editing.
2. Print Everything Out
I know there are lots of people that prefer to do their editing digitally. I can understand that, it’s easy for lots of people to annotate your work, your manuscript won’t be covered in scribbles and you’ll be saving trees. However, holding your physical manuscript in your hands will also be the last moment you look at it and truly believe that it is wonderful and complete… For a long, long time. Shortly after that moment, you’ll start ripping it to shreds, both metaphorically and literally.
Enjoy that moment of bliss while you have it!
3. Don’t Pick Up That Pen (Yet)
The first time I read my book through, I did something that can only be described as ‘power-editing’. It’s a bit like power-walking, but with a highlighter and a pen, and just as silly. What came of that was mainly confusion, as many of the notes I made were resolved in a later chapter.
It’s so tempting to cross things out and write notes all over the page on the first read-through, but actually, I reckon you just need to get an ‘overall feeling’ about your work. What’s the pace, style and emotion of it? However, that’s pretty difficult to comprehend when you’re interrupting every other word you read with a scribble.
So, I would advise you to stay as far away from a pen as possible, at least the first time you read your story through.
4. Don’t Edit Before November
Yup, that’s any time before November. It’s just too tempting to start from scratch with a new project for NaNoWriMo.
5. Give Yourself a Realistic Deadline
I’d edited about a third of my book when I found out about an unpublished children’s book competition that I was desperate to apply to. The deadline was in two weeks and I decided that I could absolutely, positively finish editing by then.
In theory, yes I could. In practise, oh no no no!
I wrote myself a strict writing schedule so that I could meet the deadline, and then proceeded to freak out about it almost immediately. In fact, I ended up spending much more time worrying about meeting the deadline than actually writing.
So, my advice to other editing writers isn’t to ignore deadlines completely (a real deadline, like a competition, can be a great incentive to keep going) but is to make sure it’s a realistic deadline, otherwise you’ll just shoot yourself in the foot.
6. Wear Your Glad Rags
No doubt, you finished your book and mentally compiled a list of huge mistakes you made that you wouldn’t make on your next book. (I hope that’s not just me…) But why wait until your next book? Now is the time to stop screwing up!
For me, I found that the more seriously I took my editing, the easier I found it. For example, I picked a cafe which for the foreseeable future has become my ‘office’, I make sure I begin writing every day at the same time and I pretend it’s my ‘real job’. Editing is a new era of writing for us. Don’t rush it, treat it like a job, wear a suit if you must – just take it seriously.
7. Get Feedback, But Don’t Listen To It (All)
Every chapter you edit is a huge achievment, but it’s not perfect. And, of course, every time you hand that chapter over to another human-being (who is kind enough to read it for you and give you honest feedback) it’s going to break your heart a bit.
Now, of course, when it comes to writing a book for other people to read, we can’t focus too much on protecting our own feelings. However, sometimes, those wishe-washy-I’m-rubbish-and-should-save-the-world-from-reading-anything-I-write feeling is best avoided for the sake of productivity.
I’m not saying, don’t grt feedback, I’m just saying, be selective. When we’re editing, we’re increasingly aware that we can change everything – but that doesn’t mean we should.
I’ve begun to take the feedback that needs desperate attention, note the other pieces down and save them for a future draft. More often than not, I find I’ve tied up a lot of the loose ends in later chapters.
8. Don’t Edit Hungover
Hangover’s are bad enough on their own, let alone while judging your own creative projects…