Rewrites are a necessary, albeit evil part of the editing process, with the red slashes of ink on the manuscript looking like something from the movie Jaws. However, without them, the story only reflects the water’s surface. Perhaps it goes as far as snorkeling, but the tale generally doesn’t get to the deep diving level that it should without them. So for me, editing is like diving, dipping deeper into the character’s psyche, swimming toward their motivations and limitations, and dragging them from the depths of the ocean to see the light of day.
Here are 6 things that are key to my editing process:
A well-rested manuscript: And by well rested I mean something I haven’t worked on in at least a few weeks. It is amazing what you can see after you have taken a small break from something; things that made complete sense can turn hazy. The break allows my perspective to change, as I am no longer completely immersed in the world I am creating and can be unbiased, or at least as close to it as I can get editing my own work. Typically, I edit each chapter as I go with my critique group, The Muse Crew, allowing each piece to rest at least a week before taking their comments into account and revising. After the entire manuscript is complete and I ship it off to the editor, I allow it to rest for a few weeks after receiving comments. This allows me to absorb what she is really saying about the issues with the plot and how they impact story, which is especially important when writing a series. Anything you write now, could impact future plots and characters, so you want to be sure that you really take your time to resolve issues you have with your story.
Printed copy of the manuscript: Okay, so I may be a bit old school here, but I am on the computer A TON. So, having a printed version of the manuscript after it comes back from the editor is crucial for me. It allows me to see the editor comments in a printed format, and gives me a place to either agree or disagree with what is said, and a space to jot ideas on how to fix a particular scene. This is also my opportunity to mark lines in the story that resonate with me, that can be used as quotes for marketing purposes later on.
Red pens: Yes…pens. Sometimes one isn’t enough, sad to say, and my notes are way easier to read later if they jump off the page. So for me, red is the perfect color to use during edits. Does the manuscript look a little worse for wear after I am done? Of course it does! Hell, if the ink was blood…well you get my drift. But cutting and slashing your writing is one of the most important parts of perfecting your story. Without this process, in my opinion, the story is just skin deep. Ripping it apart is what gets us to the meat of it, and editing allows us to piece it back together in a meaningful way. So think of the red pen as a scalpel, and go to town!
Sense of Humor: If you don’t have this, then you may need to re-think writing all together. What I have found, more than anything, is that I need to maintain the ability to laugh at myself and the mistakes that I make along the way. Especially during the editing process. Keeping a sense of humor has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life, and sometimes is the only thing that keeps me sane. That, and the fact that it is always way more fun to laugh about your glorious failures, than to cry about them. Especially if you are out with friends and there is wine involved!
Friends & my Muse Crew: Bouncing ideas off of my friends and critique partners is one of the most important things I do during my rewrite process, and as I mentioned before, can sometimes include an adult beverage or two. I have a go-to “crew” that acts as sounding boards for my plot changes, which can be very helpful as I try to work out a kink in my story. I have gotten some of my best ideas from the people around me and the places I travel. Talking it out allows me to see things from someone else’s perspective, which I feel helps me to write for a broader audience.
Scheduled Time: So, as any writer probably well knows, this is the biggest challenge, especially if like me you are fitting writing around all the other obligations in your life. What really stinks, for me, is when I am forever editing and not working on anything new. I don’t know about you, but that makes me really crabby! So what I tend to do is break up the time I have available into smaller projects. One day will be social media/blog posts, one day might be creating new content, and as I did this past week, there may be an entire day dedicated to a full read-through and edit brainstorming session. The key is to do what works for you! I find that scheduling my time, just as I would a doctor’s appointment or getting my hair done, is the best way for me to keep on top of it.
However you tackle editing, the most important thing for you to remember is that you aren’t alone. There are tons others out there, just like you, who are struggling with their own projects. Make sure you pay support forward when you can, so that it is there for you when you need it. Here are some great groups I have found along the way that have provided support in one way or another, just when I needed it most: