Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Self-Publishing Tip #3 - Prepare for the Hard Work of Editing

In the first post from this series I shared the secret of why many would-be Authors fail.

Then when we last chatted, I encouraged you to take a vacation in an attempt to get your head on straight.

And I hope you're ready because now you get to have some fun.

Now you get to run your manuscript (MS) through the first round of edits. And you're doing this one on your own.

Why do I have to edit my own work?

A fair and honest question. One that deserves a bit of attention before we get into the editing process of a first draft. 

At this point in the book writing process your book is still a shell. No one (hopefully) other than you has seen it yet so you have free reign to do whatever you want to whichever part of it you want to change.

Not sure why you even included that character in chapter fifteen? Kill them off. Delete them completely. Write them out. No one will ever know!

And the same works in reverse of course. To punch up the story maybe you need a new character somewhere.

Send your characters on a trip. Add and subtract at will in order to craft a story that flows. Your draft was the framework, now you're putting up the walls, windows and doors.

Now let's look at how I did that while editing my books.

Just keep in mind that not every method that worked for me will work for you. Because every author is different just like every book is different. But if you apply the basic principals here it should keep your editing time organized and efficient.

I refer to handwritten notes

Recently I wrote on how to use a journal to keep track of details in your novel. You can read about that here. Using that journal, a printed copy of my MS and a red pen (or 4) is how I roll into my first round of edits.

Lots of people enjoy doing all their editing on the computer. Typing certainly is faster than handwriting so it could help bring your MS to completion sooner. The best method is always to follow your instincts and do what you’re most comfortable with. For me that's by hand.

Writing by hand is known to help the brain retain the material in a more meaningful way. And I can say it really does work for me. In fact, on days when I feel less than inspired I usually end up handwriting a scene or two.

Like I said in the post, the notebook helps me keep track of timelines, names, and other detail specific information. I refer back and forth while editing to make sure the overall story has no holes.

Addition and subtraction

Imagine you get to page 220 and suddenly realize your character would never do what you put her in the situation to do. You know the scene has to go.

But to transition to the next scene you do need something to happen to your character at this part of the story.

It’s time to slash & add!

On the printed copy I went through the entire thing, line-by-line and page by page. I made notes on the pages directly, sometimes even edited entire chapters by hand as re-writes. I printed in black and edited in red until the thing hemorrhaged so hard it was practically a new book.

And that's the fun part of editing - letting the characters help guide you to the correct struggles and solutions for their story, not the story you want to tell.

Hats you’ll wear

Re-working your MS shouldn’t stop after the first edit though. In truth, you’ll likely want to re-read, edit and proof your MS in the neighborhood of 4 times before sending it to a pro.

By doing a lot of it yourself, you'll save a lot of money on a pro when you send your finished copy out for final edits.

Authors should have a familiarity with the various types of editing because we have to use them all.

The 4 types of editing most important to complete are: Substantive, developmental, copy editing, and proofreading.

Substantive will show you plot holes to be filled, developmental should help to reshape the story into a tighter and more tailored piece of work, copy editing will adjust the text to read coherently, and proofreading is your final spelling and grammar read-through.

When you gradually ease back in slash & burn with each round of edits the story becomes more polished and complete.

Then when you send it out to a professional you've helped them do a better job by providing them with a more complete story. Which helps them make real-time suggestions that help you release the best book ever!

All helpfullness all the time!

My editing story

All of that work took me close to two years to complete on my first book. My time was limited because I had a full-time job. I’d paint by day and write or edit when I had a few days off.

It was time consuming but I just kept thinking about that 'how to eat an elephant - one bite at a time' saying and persevered through to the end.

And you can too. One word at a time.

In the next tip in this series I’ll share what made me choose self-publishing over traditional publishing.

Beware: It may not be the reason you think.

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1 comment:

Kim Hruba said...

Awesome Jenn!

I totally agree w/ the printout and read it off the page instead of the computer - it really helps to see the forest for the trees (or however the expression goes...) One thing I learned in my ms is that I had these shorter scenes that felt like little karate chops. So, after I did a read through, I mapped out my chapters. I'm visual and hands-on so I labeled each scene on a small card, laid them out on a (huge) table and then looked at how I might merge some of the shorter scenes, delete others, move them around, etc. I discovered I had this big time jump that needed to be bridged w/ some scenes. I'm being incredibly brief here, but basically, I agree w/ your approach.