Thursday, 13 November 2008

All answers welcome

I know that the answer to this question is going to be "Whatever works for me" but that's the problem. I'm not sure what works for me and I'd appreciate some other viewpoints.
Here is my conundrum.
My book has passed it's second draft phase and is now being edited/polished etc. You may remember that following the advice given to me by my friend after she had read the first few chapters I decided to make a few changes.
My editing process is basically going through the whole thing from the start and correcting typo's, continuity errors or whatever as I go along and making changes to the storyline. The problem is that I find that I'm constantly going back over what I did, changing it.I think that I am striving for perfection too much which is very odd because I never do that in any other walk of life.
So, what I would be interested in is how you go around the editing process, especially of longer pieces of writing and how do you stop yourself becoming neurotic?


Calistro said...

That's a very tricky question!

For my first novel edit I read through the entire thing to get a sense of how it flowed. Then I read it again, marking things that didn't seem to work or things I needed to check for continuity. I also marked huge great paragraphs with things like 'waffly' or 'boring' or 'slow' or 'how is this moving the plot forward?'. Then I went through, from the beginning and started to fix it. During my second edit I paid more attention to line edits, swapping words around, making sentences tighter etc. Then I sent it to an agent and didn't look at it for months.

My third edit was after an agent requested a rewrite. His suggestion was to make it zingier and pacier and make the funny scenes funnier. So then I had something particular to fix and again, went through from the beginning. By the time I'd finished I was heartily sick of the sight of the novel and knew it was time to stop!

One thing I definitely recommend is that you don't get too caught up in the minutae of previous chapters as you're editing. Keep pushing forwards through the novel. Then put it to one side and let it rest. You'll see it very differently if you haven't read it for a few weeks/months. Sometimes you can get TOO close to it and over edit, spoiling sentences.

But in answer to the question "when is the edit over?" - when you're sick of the sight of it!

Gonna be a writer said...

Okay, this is where I am at about half an hour after the original post.
I was on chapter 4 when I changed a line that made me thin that I would have to go back to the beginning. So I did that and realised that I didn't. What I put in in chapter 4 works fine with what has gone before. So now I can move forward. That's interesting about the edit being over when you are sick of what you are editing bcause I am heartily sick of the first three chapters so I guess it's time to leave them alone.

Anonymous said...

I've not done much editing, not for anything bigger than a short story anyway. However, I have some big ideas for when I do edit my various novels and novellas. It's all in the planning, you see. I realise that what I'm about to tell you is therefore somewhat theoretical, but it's what I intend to do, based on things I've gleaned from other bloggers and writers over the last couple of years.

My overall plan is what I'm going to call a multi-pass, structured top-down approach. Sounds grand, doesn't it? It goes something like this...

* Trying to do all the editing in one sweep will almost certainly not work. So design a number of passes through the work. Each pass is to focus on one aspect or group of aspects about the novel. Passes might include:

- Plot consistency and integrity.
- Character development.
- Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar checking.
- Adherence to guidelines, such as: Use five senses, avoid clich├ęs (like the plague), remove unnecessary adverbs, etc.
- Pace and dialogue.
- Probably lots more...

* For each pass, break the work down into smaller manageable units. Chapters are probably a good unit to work with, or perhaps scenes if your chapters are long. Then for each unit:

- Keep earlier versions, so that you can revert changes if you decide against them.
- Apply the edits according to which pass is in progress.
- Re-read earlier units frequently.
- Take frequent breaks to rest and to mull things over in your mind.
- Finally, a full read through of the whole thing in order to check that nothing has been "broken" or over-edited.
- Go back and do the next pass.

The good thing (I think) about the above method, is that there is a definite structure to it, and therefore a predictable end-point. Of course, how long you spend on each pass/unit is another matter...

No doubt when the time comes, I'll abandon my lovely plans and just go neurotic!

Gonna be a writer said...

In my day job I plan plan plan so it's not a bad idea to have one for editing. I think concentrating on a chapter at a time would work best for me.