Category Archives: Editing

Camp Nanowrimo Project — day four

So I apologize for missing yesterday. I really have no excuse save for not hitting my quota until far too late at night. I’ll try not to let that happen again.

You’ll notice that I’m not starting today’s report with a wordcount. That’s because I currently don’t know it. I spent most of today reworking the last seven thousand words or so of my novel (so everything I wrote yesterday, essentially) because I realized fairly early on today that it simply wasn’t working. Yes, you’re told not to edit during a writing month and to save it for editing, but I’ve decided this month that I’ll fix major structural problems as I go. Having to rework 7000 words is a pain, but it’s nowhere close to having to redo 60,000, as I would have had to do had I waited until the end. Not to mention that trying to keep writing without fixing the issues would have led to another day of painful, forced writing. I write for fun, and when it’s not fun I use it as a signal that something’s wrong.

So I spent most of today rethinking when my main female character would be introduced and essentially unintroduced her and cut all of her scenes. I’ve kept them in a separate document and will be reintegrating them when I get to that point in the new version, but for the moment they’re sitting nicely in a document of their own. Which means that I have no idea of how many words will be reintegrated because I’m not there yet. If you go by the new version I’ve dropped down to just under 20,000, but if you add in the scenes that I cut it puts me at 26.5k. I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to log, if anything. Hopefully by the time I finish tonight I’ll have reintegrated everything, but at the speed it’s going that may not happen until tomorrow.

It’s interesting that, after so many years of essentially not having a dictatorial inner editor, this one has chosen to show its face now, during the very month when it should be kept away at all costs. I think it represents both my investment in the story and an evolution in the way that I view my writing. Living with a fellow writer whose inner editor is far more vocal than mine has meant that I’ve spent the past several months listening to them talk about various revisions of their current work in progress. I’ve heard characters added, removed, made more important, made less so. I’ve discussed with them different ways to write scenes or which scenes to move around. I’ve actually learned a lot more about editing from talking with my roommate than I have in any of my English classes. Apparently hearing about editing first hand has rubbed off on me more than I thought, because here I am, reworking an unfinished draft in a way I would never have done even last year.

Then again, this is definitely proof that this story is talking to me properly. It ground to a halt towards the end of the day yesterday and this morning flatly refused to keep moving unless I fixed the problems. I do love it when novels come alive on me like this, so I can’t be too upset with it. And definitely the prose I’m writing now was better than the stuff I was attempting to squeeze out yesterday or this morning. It’s just frustrating to make so little progress in terms of overall wordcount when I’ve invested so much of my time today in working on the project. Ah well, it’s all still part of writing and, really, when I’m ahead even for my adjusted goal, I think I can afford a day with little concrete progress in terms of wordcount.

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The Editing Process: knowing where to start

A couple weeks ago I sent my most recently completed novel draft to a friend and fellow writer for review. Mostly what I was looking for was confirmation that I didn’t have gaping plot holes or inconsistencies in my story. What I got back was essentially grammar corrections (which I do appreciate, since my grammar is self-taught and instinctive and doesn’t always match up with the official rules). Obviously I need to work on my communication next time. But, apart from a double handful of fairly minor observations, I’m still at square oneĀ  when it comes to knowing what needs to be fixed. Clearly this is a sign that I need to stop attempting to outsource my editing and just figure it out on my own.

The main problems with this manuscript are twofold: it’s too short (just over 67,000 words), and only two of the main three characters are properly fleshed out. Secondary problems involve tension in the plot (there really isn’t any) and descriptions of places and people (it fluctuates wildly from nonexistent to practically purple). Also, I need to rework the platonic affection triangle to make it quite clear that romance plays no part in the drama. My issue isn’t so much what the primary issues are so much as how to solve them. Obviously, I can articulate fairly clearly what the problems with my draft are, though I’m sure there are more that I haven’t caught.

In fact, my issue is mostly that I never learned the editing process. I’m well versed in the processes of brainstorming and writing, both because I’ve been doing them on my own for years and because I learned how to do them in school. Admittedly I had to bridge the gap between academic writing and fiction, but it’s not that large a gap in terms of process. The content and tone gaps are large, but the processes themselves are basically the same. Unfortunately, I’m a good writer, so I never had to learn to edit. This is proving to be a problem when it comes to my fiction, because I do need to edit, and I know I need to edit. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’ve looked around online and seen how other authors do it, but, as with everything in writing, each person works differently and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. A lot of time the best advice someone can give boils down to, “I’m doing what felt right to me and I don’t really know how to explain it.” Admittedly most people are more eloquent than that, because writers tend to be eloquent even when they’re not working on books, but at the end of the day everyone seems to agree that you have to figure out what works best for you and that the best way to do that is trial and error. So that’s what I’m going to do. Trial and error, punctuated by long periods of frustration and annoyance. In fact, that could pretty much sum up my entire process from beginning to end.

I think I’m going to start by thoroughly profiling my characters and going from there. I’m a character-driven writer, and a lot of my problems come from not listening to them properly. Hopefully as I explore Amy further she can tell me what to do and which scenes to rewrite and things will start flowing more smoothly. Once I’ve solved that problem we can move on to issues of tension and tone and length, which are much more daunting. But one thing at a time. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.

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