Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Construction Zone 13 - Editing

Now you've finished your first draft, and you're incredibly relieved. The bones of your story are down. You've reached the end.

Now it's time to fix and polish so it's ready to send.

The way I used to edit is very different from the way I edit now. Honestly I think it's a skill that's developed over time. The more you write, the better you become, the more you can tell what's working and what's not. What I used to consider "edits" is now more of a polishing stage.

When I edit, I get to the end and if there are scenes that need to be added, I go back and add them where I think they need to be. Once I've done that, I start at the beginning and work my way through. I look for certain things...is my hero strong. Is my conflict solid. I layer a lot. This means I add physical and emotional beats. By the end of the story, I usually have a handful of motivation and conflict layers that I didn't exploit enough in the first half, so the bulk of my layering goes there. This is where my dialogue gets fleshed out so that the scene is fully set.

When I finish a book now, I'm usually a good 4-7k off for word count. During edits and layering, I add 3-5k. I've learned that I send a book in a little short and once my editor is finished with it, I feel like it's tighter and I've cut a bunch of stuff and I end up solidly in the middle of the 5k spread for word count - right on the money.

Once you've gone through and fixed what needs fixing - keeping focus on the romance, making sure the pace is fluid and keeps moving, and that your characters have behaved in the appropriate way for their character and arc, you do a polishing round.

When you polish, you should be looking for repetitive words, repetitive actions, grammar and spelling mistakes, the odd sentence that just seems to fit. This is about prettying up your ms, because now all the heavy work is done.

The best advice I can give is DON'T BE AFRAID TO EDIT. Don't let the delete key scare you. Be brave and do what needs to be done. If you get to a point where you're thoroughly sick of the manuscript or just can't see anymore what needs to be changed, it's time to let an editor have a go.

Next up - sending it off! Queries, synopses, and partials.

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