Last week I talked about specific things I look for when I’m editing. This week I’ll talk briefly about HOW I edit. This may very well change in the future, since, as I mentioned last week, I’m really just learning the fine art of truly editing a novel. But for now, this is what works well for me.
As much as I hate have unnecessary paper in my office, and try to have a little “stuff” as possible in general, when I finish the first draft of a novel I print it out and put it in a binder. Before I started the online critique group, I would read it through and make notes on the paper, then transcribe any changes to the computer. Now, I do something similar. We get roughly 5 critiques each week. I sit with my binder and purple pen and read through each critique. I make notes on the paper copy of the novel about grammatical changes, things that don’t make sense, anything. Whatever the comments are, I note them all in my binder.
After I have gone through all the critiques in this manner, I get to work on the computer. I study the notes, and make changes based on them to improve the story. There are usually a few things people suggest that they think would be better that I don’t agree with. I take every comment seriously, even if i don’t agree with it. Especially those I don’t agree with it. Why don’t I? Is it true disagreement? Or is it defensiveness? I make sure to examine it carefully before discarding it.
In the past, once I finished this first round of edits, I would go through the novel again, and read it aloud to myself. This is an absolute MUST. It is amazing how something can look so brilliant, flow so smoothly when you silently read it in your head, but when you HEAR it, the passage is the most ridiculously awkward thing you have ever read. This is especially important for dialogue.
I’m still through the first phase of this round of edits with the online critique group, so I haven’t gotten to reading it aloud to myself again. But I will.
Then I will ask 1 or 2 people that I trust to be completely objective to read it, and go through another round of edits based on their comments. I may not do that this time around, however, since I know my critique group is very objective.
Only then will I consider the novel “Finished.” But as experience has taught me, even when I say “THE END,” it really isn’t. I always thing of things to change, clarify, improve. Published authors say you are never truly done until the book is in print, and then you are only done because you cannot make any more changes. My novels haven’t been published yet (they will) but I can attest to the truth of this statement.