A few weeks ago, I posted on how to get your first-draft manuscript written. Plugging out your first book is exhilarating and emotional (I actually spent two years writing my first book,so it was a real journey). But the fun (or agony, depending on your personality) doesn’t end when you finish that first draft. Even the second draft. Truth is, writing is a fulfilling and potentially lucrative hobby or profession, but it is also time-consuming and there will very likely come a point where you just feel like slogging off, instead of slogging in front of you computer. In particular, the editing process can become quite tedious. So here’s some tips that will hopefully make that process a little more fun and efficient!
1. Make time for it. A polished manuscript is essential for success, whether you choose to publish traditionally or self- publish. If you self-publish, your readers will enjoy what they buy, and you will seem more credible in their eyes. If you submit to a traditional publisher, the editor who looks at your book won’t get frustrated with trying understand yr typos (see what I did here?). This means that they can focus on how fab your story is, and how the world won’t be the same without your literary masterpiece! Additionally, the credibility thing comes in. Obviously, the manuscript you send is not going to be perfect in terms of content or grammar, no book ever is. Even Suzanne Collins’ books were heavily edited (fun fact: while Suzanne originally focused more on the war story in the HG series, her editor convinced her to incorperate more of the love story. Good descision in my mind!). But having a well-crafted, thought-out, polished manuscript says that you are committed to creating a quality product. Make time for many read-throughs and levels of editing, as well as some time away from your book.
2. Read Through. I wish I had left more time for this with my last book. After you finish draft #1, read through it as a reader. Not as the appraising author, but as a reader would. Think: Do I like the flow of this story? Do I feel the characters’ plights? Does some of their dialogue feel repetetive? Pretend you’re a reviewer of the work, and don’t edit while you’re reading, but keep a list. What do you like, what not. What would make it better? If you feel a sense of emotion of any kind while reading, it’s a good sign that you have a viable foundation. Plus doing this makes what you’ve just done seem more real. You’ve written a book! Congratulations!
3. Enlist the Help of Others. And make sure to enlist both genders. Case in point: last year, I took a course at U of Winn on writing for the screen, and had to write a story treatment. While I revised it, I was prepping other final papers and was struggling to see if it was any good. My mom and brother graciously helped by offering their imput and it was a much better story for it. Interestingly though, I disregarded one of my brother’s comments, and it made a difference to the final reader (my prof.). I had a character die in a wartime explosion, and my brother response was, “you should say he died from heavy artillery fire!” My response: “that’s just plain silly. It’s a wartime explosion, it speaks for itself.” Well,when I read my professor’s comments on my (A grade!) story treatment, one of the comments was, “what kind of explosion?” Apparently it did matter. And since others will be the ones who read your stuff, you should seriously listen! Besides that, others just see things that you don’t because you’re too close to your story.
4. Don’t Copy Edit ANYTHING Until You’ve Finished Revising. I spent a ton of time correcting grammar and spelling on parts of my book that I didn’t end up keeping in my first novel. Waste of time and energy. Make sure that you have your story and character development in place and that you’re keeping that content before you copy edit.
5. Write a Story Treatment. I know I used this in my writing tips post, but that was more for getting your story going. This is to check that everything is in place. With a story treatment or in-depth synopsis, you get to see how events flow, and how characters develop over time. Another prof. Of mine, Catherine Hunter, did a version of this when writing her mystery books. She wrote scenes on index cards, then arranged them in order, so that she could monitor the flow if information the reader was recieving. Either way, it’s a way of making sure that everything makes sense and flows well.
6. Make Sure That Your Character’s Motivations Are Clear. A big one that will help you. This comes from Jonathan Ball, who taught the class that I wrote the screen treatment in. When your characters have a clear purpose, they will likely be more sympathetic and rounded, and your story will have meaning. Do this, and things fall into line much easier.
More later, but hopefully this helps! Good luck in all of your writing adventures!