Insight into the Author: Editing

Every author has a favorite stage of the process. Some hate drafting, but love editing. Some love marketing and the pre-publication process (although I think they’re a pretty strange breed!)

I happen to be one who loves the actual writing, but grudgingly accepts that editing has to happen. I’m really bad about it because I’ll drag my feet on it. (This blog post is evidence of it since I’m using it to procrastinate from starting in on an editing project.)

What’s the worst part for me right now: I have not one, not two, but THREE editing projects lined up for myself, two of which need to run simultaneously.

But sometimes when you’re facing something you really dislike, it’s good to hash it out. So that’s what I’m doing today.

First, a truth: I don’t edit a ton while writing. Once it comes out of my fingers into Scrivener, it’s usually going to stay in the draft until editing. I don’t typically delete whole scenes period, and unlike one of my writing mentors, K.M. Weiland, I don’t do 50-page edits (which is a cool idea, K.M., but it just doesn’t work for me.) Despite it all, I tend to write very tight, and usually end up ADDING words to a draft after the fact than not. Usually in the form of description.

Okay, truth time.

After I finish a draft, I let it sit, usually while I go work on another project, either by drafting or editing. Darby Shaw’s next book is in this stage–I finished it last week, and it’s gone into marination mode while I hit another project.

Once marination has happened (which can be a few  days to a few months typically), I go and read what I wrote. There, I’ll make not of anything I’m not happy with, clean up some of my wording, decide if there’s any scenes that need added (which I usually write right then and there), and look for any timeline idiosyncrasies. While I usually don’t have to, I’ll move scenes around at this point too. (I know Darby’s next book is going to have this happen.) When I’ve worked out as many of the bugs as I can, I polish it again, and send it out to beta readers. Usually, I ask to have it back in a couple months, depending on the length of the story.

Once most or all of the beta readers have replied back with their in-line comments as well as answered any questions I had about the plot, I start integrating their thoughts into my draft. I’m still perfecting this part of the process, but with Scrivener, it’s helpful because I can have my main file open and the critique next to it. This probably looks different from author to author, but it usually involves several rereads on my part as I go through manually and copy their notes into the main file. Once that’s done, I can go through and figure out which ones I’m going to address, which ones I’m not, and which ones I’m going to mull, and then I can start prioritizing what to do first.

I usually start clearing out the easy stuff first–clarifying details, tweaking some of my messy wording, checking continuity glitches I missed on my own passes. Then I start pondering the bigger stuff, things that could cause repercussions in other parts of the story. These can be much more tedious, and generally take me the longest. And depending on who submitted the suggestion, I may be back and forth with the beta reader several times over the course of a week or two as I figure out exactly how to address the issue. Usually this culminates with my submitting the rewritten scene or scenes for their take. There were many, many scenes of Capitulation which were direct results of this process. (Maybe one day, I’ll release the “director’s cut” of that book so those interested can see the original and compare it to what got published. The only problem is it drastically changed the outcome of the book!)

With all of that done, I start polishing, doing a pass on my own, then a second and even third pass with my Kindle Keyboard reading the draft to me so I can hear errors. After that, it’s off to the next round–depending on my schedule and the length of the work, it could go to my editor, it could go to another set of eyes or two. When I get reports back from these people, the book could go into another round of edits as detailed in the above paragraph. But if I’ve done my job, and it’s in pretty decent shape, the editing I do at this point only takes a few hours to a few days.

Finally, it’s off to my proofreader. Throughout the whole process, I’ve probably been working on copywriting and cover design, so when it’s all done, it’s a pretty quick process to get it put together and out to you, the reader!

Yes, it does take some time, but I don’t want to have crappy books out there. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, as the saying goes.

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