Editing Tips and Tricks

I used to think that the thing I excelled at was writing a good first draft. I've come to know that the thing I really had to learn to love is throwing away that first draft and working instead on rewriting and editing. I don't really get a decent book until after rewriting.

Usually, the first draft is where I discover the story. I don't outline, so everything's still a bit experimental in that first draft. So when it comes time to turning this mess into an actual book, most of what I need to do is pretty major--cut whole chapters, delete entire sections, rearrange everything, etc.

The first step of my editing process: Discover the scenes that I, personally, truly value. I usually make a list of the things I really want to be in the book--this could be individual scenes, or it could be a character's arc, or even a single line (for SHADES OF EARTH, it was actually a blank page). I list out the things that are essential and true to the story that I need to tell.

The next step: Cutting and re-arranging. This is really a two-step process for me. I need to both look at the scenes that aren't in the list I made in the first step, and decide if they are truly essential to the story. If not--cut. But at the same time, I have to figure out the right order for the scenes I want to keep in. You have to spread out the good stuff, and connect it like little bridges from scene to scene. I can't have all the action at the end and nothing in the beginning. I have to reveal things as I go, not all at once.

Really, my editing process is a matter of cutting out the scenes that I care about and piecing them together into a puzzle that makes a book. I'm very brutal in this--I typically have to rewrite the book at least once to get all the pieces together correctly. It is often very frustrating--but also satisfying, when I can make it work, much like the satisfying click of two puzzle pieces snapping together.



12 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing your editing process. It was interesting to see how you do it. I'll have to think more what I need from the first draft. I also switch things around while I revise.

Joshua David Bellin said...

You've captured the essence of my own drafting and editing strategy: "the first draft is where I discover the story. I don't outline, so everything's still a bit experimental in that first draft. So when it comes time to turning this mess into an actual book, most of what I need to do is pretty major--cut whole chapters, delete entire sections, rearrange everything, etc." I'm currently nearing the end of my WIP, and it's a complete mess, because I find out what I'm trying to say only in the process of trying to say it. But the key for me is to embrace the mess, forge ahead, and know I can make it a real book in revision.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

It's great when you can find an editing process that works for you. The last book I wrote was the first one I didn't have a solid outline for. It was more SOTP than the last several stories I've written so it was an interesting editing process. It did, however, help teach me some of my strengths and weaknesses, so hopefully I'll know more for the next go round. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your process! I completely agree with you. I often enjoy the editing part because I can cut out the fluff and get to what is really important. I love seeing it all come together!

The Geeks said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

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