"At times I think my coffee and tea addictions truly drive my artistic energy. It’s a small sacrifice for the greater good."

Editing and Revising

Posted: 7/1/10 | Written by Jeannie | Labels: ,

You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. You’ve let it sit on the back burner for a few months but now it’s an itch under your skin. Festering in your mind and it’s time to go back and scratch. Picking up your novel from the stove, before it starts to burn, you decide it’s time to revise.

But it’s perfect! You think. This is the first irritation you need to apply ointment to. It’s not. First drafts are called drafts for a reason. In reality you will use probably a hundred words from your first draft. The rest will come from editing. But don’t let this dismay you, revision is a brilliant process.

I can’t tell you the perfect formula for editing and revising. However, I can tell you what works for me. This habit developed after hearing the above sentiments of how many words we actually use from the first draft. Knowing ahead of time that my first draft is crap I understand most of it I won’t use. It’s too raw. The story arch is there, the main plots, and characters are there but it needs to be refined. To do this I start fresh. I do not edit the word document that holds the first draft; I start anew. The blank page, cursor blinking in front of me, and the first draft beside me—these are all keys in my map to the second draft.

By rekeying my second draft it allows me to zero in on the areas that don’t work. Bits you think are brilliant may stumble and fall flat as you are reading it in your head. Reading your first draft, even if it’s in your mind, is an important step to editing your work and revising. Once a chapter has gone through this process and I think it’s perfect, I edit some more.

The third revision, I use my microphone and record myself reading the chapter or chapter’s I’ve rewritten. When I play it back I’ll follow on page and write down areas I stumble over when I read. Obviously these are the areas I need to rework. Otherwise my reader (whom should always be on your mind) will stumble too. Sometimes as you read you automatically switch words without knowing it, subconsciously you know it works better. On the playback you have an easier time catching these instances.

Once the third draft goes through this process I find that I’m pretty happy with the manuscript. Most of the kinks are gone and it’s ready for a critique group or peer review. I can’t stress how important a peer/critique group is. Three extra sets of eyes can identify problems you don’t see. Often we are still too close to the work in progress. However, this is usually the last step before querying. By the fourth revision, after your group identifies the smaller problems, you can be confident that your work is ready to query.