Monday, December 6, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Editing

First draft done: check.  Suggestions and edits from Crit Partners: check.  New office chair: check.  New keyboard and mouse to make editing easier: check.  Having no idea what I'm supposed to do now: check.

Like how I jerry-rigged the mouse area because keyboard tray doesn't have a place for the mouse? Perfect for writing I'm sure...

So I finished my first draft, yeah yeah, cool and all that jazz.  As I stare at the two copies of my manuscript- one marked up by one crit partner, and the other marked up by the other crit partner, I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed.  Now what? 

Colene's edits on the left, Andy's on the right (obscured by my "title page")

Where do I begin?  This is my first time editing a 94,000 word novel that I've written.  I have no idea how to start.  Do I go over the two copies of my novel from each crit partner and compare notes?  Do I print out a completely fresh copy (oy, the paper) and do my own edits?  Do I open my word documents and make edits on the computer with the bubbles and stuff, while I have the marked up manuscripts next to me?  Or do I just do that when I'm ready with my crit partner's changes?

Editing can be a cruel mistress that leads you on and gives you false hope.  On the one hand, you are ecstatic to have finally finished your manuscript, but on the other the actual process is agonizing.  You have been through so much with your characters: laughed with them, cried with them, loved them, hated them, screamed at them and pleaded with them.  You know your world inside and out, and now you have to chisel away at it, like chiseling away at your own heart.  But it has to be done.  You have to break that mistress down bit by bit until she's perfect and you can make her into your wife.  (okay, that was a bit much on the analogy part, but seriously...I had to go there)  It's a constant pull of emotions- highs and lows that bring you on this roller coaster we call Editing, only to end up right at the beginning to start a bigger and higher roller coaster we call Querying.

So here I am, ready to go uphill with this thing and I don't know where to start.  How do you start your first round of edits?  What do you do to help get you organized and ready to tackle that mistress and tame her?  (okay, that was really bad...)  I'm going to stop with the bad analogies and let you do the talking.  Maybe you can come up with a couple awesomely bad analogies yourselves, and more importantly, tell me how you edit.


lotusgirl said...

All my crit partners are far away so their crits come back online. I go through what they've said with my document open beside it. If I agree with what they say, I make the changes right then and there and move on. If not, I hold off unless another critter says the same and then I go back and look at it more seriously. I work in small increments at first (like a page or scene or chapter). It's too overwhelming otherwise.

Ryan said...

Ugh! I feel your pain. I hate "wasting" paper, so my Step 1 might be transferring all of the notes to one digital file. Like, type all of the notes from Crit #1 into the document in red and then type all of the notes from Crit #2 into the same document in blue. Then I go back and start editing, page by page. And now, just thinking about this stage of the writing process makes me want to throw up a little. A necessary evil, though. Good luck!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fortunately, my crit partners are local, so all of their suggestions were scribbled on my printed draft. (And we sat through it together after they'd made suggestions so I understood what they heck they were suggesting.)
I'd keep their drafts on the side and make corrections in your Word document. Then print it out and go through it again.

Colene Murphy said...

Awe! Wow. That can be overwhelming.

When I did my first edits I only had one point of view on it. Which was mine. My friend made notes here and there but she was mostly just support.

I would definitely suggest sitting on the floor/couch/or bed with mine and Andys suggestions and compare each page. Then use your lovely new sticky notes to mark the changes you want or need to make. Nothing else! No other notes. Just the parts you want to use from both our critiques. THEN put each page together(both mine and Andys.) So by the time you're done you have ONE stack of critiques, 2 of each page. THEN sit down at your desk and go through the first page one entering in each stickynote of changes you want to make. Then flip to the next page 1 and do THOSE changes. It will go by in a breeze!

But that's just my suggestion!

Donea Lee said...

I'm not quite at this stage yet (some cps in the first place would be nice...), so I'll be VERY interested to see what kind of tips you get. But, I'm liking Alex's approach so far. I'd read through the CP notes - maybe highlight the ones that work with your vision and then keep them to the side as you make the changes in your word doc. Best of luck to you!! :)

Jennie Bailey said...

All my crit partners stuff goes in first (the stuff that I agree with). If I have two separate mark-ups, I will collate them together so I get two pages of each. That way I don't have to go through it twice. Sometimes I'll add my own changes if I think of them in that moment. Once those are done, I take my own copy and mark it up myself, adding post-its with important notes like "this needs more" or "make it less dumb here". Okay, just kidding on that last one. I'm not THAT mean to myself. But I do all my post-it notes first. Then I hand write in those changes before breaking out the computer again. I do it this way because my chair sucks and I'm in pain if I sit at the computer for loooong periods of time. I can get more done if it's written out (plus, it's like I'm editing what I hand wrote as well so kind of a two-fer). Elana Johnson has some GREAT advice on editing and I like Laini Taylor does as well (on their blogs). I love seeing how others do it and trying new things on for size! Good luck!

Shallee said...

Good luck! Editing is definitely a rough road. I like to take all the notes I have and compare them first. I make notes in the document itself with track changes/comments, and then I reread the whole thing and make my own comments. That's where I start, anyway.

erica and christy said...

Okay, I've never done a full manuscript with two partners at the same time (chapters through a critique group, but never the full).

Here's what I think I'd do, though:
1. Grab one critiqued ms and a highlighter.
2. Highlight things that ABSOLUTELY need fixing - obv. ones like misspellings, etc., but also "this doesn't work at all" situations. Leave the questionables alone for now. If you try to change everything both people suggested, you might end up with a mess that makes no sense. :)
3. Repeat with other one.
4. Open your document. Work through all your highlighted stuff.
5. At this point, I'd do a full edit myself. Is this working? Is this as much as I can fix?
6. Go through both criques again and this time, pay attention to some of the questionables. Would this improve it? If so, change it. If not, move on.
7. Start over. Repeat several times (sigh).
Good luck!

N. R. Williams said...

The last suggestion was good. I do the crit. edits as I receive them. One at a time. Once I have that finished I look for certain things I know I need to weed out.
POV shifts.
ly and ing words. I use the find function and highlight all words ending in either and then go through and try to come up with a better sentence.
Look for passive voice, was, is, that, this and similar words very, even. These words do are lazy.
To read an excellent book on editing pick up Self Editing for Fiction Writers, 2nd edition by Renne and King.
After you've done all's time to hire an editor.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Melissa said...

I like your so called bad analogies.... maybe I'm deranged, I'm not sure.... I've heard you should compare all the notes you have. But some people do it by chapters... I'm not there yet nor have I ever been there so I feel like I'm the last person to give you advice.

As someone who is going to start editing in the new year, I'll tell you what my plan is... I'm going to read through all the comments left and make my own on each page. Then I'm going to break it into manageable chunks. Small sections that won't feel too overwhelming (and then reward myself everytime I get through a section!)

Jules Ausborn said...

I'm still working on the windy road ahead. I can't help but be envious of those who've passed their first round of edits. Having no idea what to do I'm going into treaterous waters, and it's scary... I'd hate to drown.

Good luck with your edits/revisions/rewrites! We're all rooting for you!!!


Dominic de Mattos said...

I'm busy reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers, 2nd edition by Renne and King that Nancy recommended and it really is excellent. Whilst it is always a good idea to get critters views and a professional editor's advice, detailed knowledge of editing will help put the advice you receive into perspective. You are then in a better position to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change.

Kristin Miller said...

Just came across your blog. Love to hear another writer's editing process. And I absolutely love your chair. (I have the same one! )

Demitria said...

I'm at this stage too. Editing make my brain hurt! :)

alexia said...

I've never had two sets of edits at once... if it were me, I'd read through them both to see where any similarities and differences are. I'd kind of decide in my head what I was going to use and what I wasn't. Then I'd sit with the printed pages and edit on the computer. A couple people suggested collating the pages - that sounds like a good idea.

I've edited my novel a million times or so now. I sometimes make editing to do lists to keep it all straight and break it into manageable steps. Anything from basic copy editing type stuff (for example, search on the word 'that' and delete unnecessary ones) to new scenes or scenes I want to add to. That helps me from getting too overwhelmed.

Amie Kaufman said...

Ahgad, I know, right? I'm afraid I have no helpful advice, but I'm reading the comments here for everything I can glean!