Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One edit down, on to the next

Yesterday, I finished my revision of The Christmas Tree Farm Murders and sent it off to be critted. I started working on the revision outline April 7, so that's just under a month. Not bad.

I'm going to be starting the revision of Witchy Woman next, and I thought I'd talk a little about my editing process here. I started off with Holly Lisle's articles on One-Pass Manuscript Revision and How to Revise a Novel. These are essentially the same process, just written up slightly differently.

Now, I knew I couldn't use her process as written -- as I mentioned in Making the writing pay, I feel the need to see the big picture first before I jump into cutting and making notes about adding scenes. So I added an extra pass through to create a revision outline and remind what the book as a whole looked like before I made any decisions. I actually got so caught up in the prose that I wound up stopping the outline to just read, then had to go back and page through again to create the outline. This turned out to work very well, since I could make notes on my index cards about upcoming scenes that I wanted to tie things to, or note that some scenes might work better pushed together.

Once I had my outline (a series of index cards, one scene per card), I went through and adjusted them all, removing the second POV, noting which scenes should be rewritten to the primary POV, tracing clues and planting new ones -- generally, making certain the continuity worked. I also noted dates and times to make sure the timeline worked.

Then I went through the hard copy and edited. Lots and lots of red ink all over the pages. Deletions, changes, additions. New pages written on the back of old ones. That took about a week.

Next up, the type-in. I'm odd -- I type in from back to front. This serves two purposes: the manuscript hasn't been repaginated by changes earlier in the manuscript, so the hard copy pages correspond to what's in front of me on the screen; and focusing on the sentences and paragraphs out of context gives me a separate proofreading check where I'm not seeing words because I expect them to be there.

I typed in the last four chapters and realized I was going to need another pass. I had entirely too many body language tics of the "she smiled," "she shrugged," and "he nodded" variety, and I needed to take those out and add in more actual characterization and setting description.

Thus, when I finished the type-in, I started through again, this time front to back, making those sorts of changes as I went -- and noting on my outline specific changes that would have to be propagated through later chapters.

Turns out, though, I wasn't quite done when I sent it off for crit. I'd left a wishy-washy sentence highlighted that I meant to come back to and fix. I sent e-mail about this and chalked it up as learning experience: Don't skip the final read-through before sending a manuscript to agents or editors.

That's the process as I just went through it. I'm hoping to streamline it for this next project -- sort of. You see, WW has about half the word count it needs, so I know I'm going to be layering in story-line and sub-plot.

The anticipated process:
  • read through the manuscript

  • create outline of current state

  • work through world-building and necessary plot expansions

  • update revision outline

  • hard copy edit (get rid of tics and add description at this stage!)

  • type in edits

  • have Word read manuscript to me while I follow along to make sure all edits complete

I'm hoping to get through the read-through this week, and begin the rest next week. This time, I'm estimating closer to two months than one, but we'll see.