Monday, June 14, 2010

Editing, the Process: Finishing a Story

First of all, before I start posting, I would like to point out a few key points.
  • These posts are just my opinion. This is what works for me, and may help you along, but you do not need to follow them like they are a guide. I don't believe that there is only one way to edit.
  • These posts are for novelists. Not that I don't think they would work for a short story, I've only ever used this method with longer works.
  • These posts are ordered the way that I have done them. I thought this process through carefully, knowing what would help the most at the first and last stages of editing. Keep this in mind when you are editing. Everyone is good at different things, and you need to take your strengths and weaknesses into consideration while editing.
Okay, now that all that is over, I will get on with my post.

One of the most important things you must do when you are considering starting to edit is to finish your story. It seems like such an obvious thing. Sadly, though, I have fallen prey to the write some, edit some technique and it did more harm than good. I have to start small when I move from editing to writing, writing blurbs, reading others' works, working my way back up to novel-ing (Yes, I'm pretty sure its not a real word.). I can't switch back and forth between the two with any amount of ease, and I've found that aside from hitting dead ends and finding where I need to cut back to, I cannot do any editing until my story is finished. It may be the same for you. Another really great thing about finishing the story before you start editing, is it gives you an amazing boost, almost like a high that pushes you to continue.

After all that effort, I like to read what I wrote, then convince myself not to throw it away. I take my time with that first read-through. I make tons of notes along the way. I also try to correct any spelling errors and major grammar blunders along the way. This takes time. My first draft of "A Place Called Earth" was only 50,000 words long and the first read-through took me nearly a month. I was working on it for at least a couple hours a day. When you aren't paying attention to these things when you write it, it gets written quickly, but you find out after that, there is a lot of deciphering involved. Lastly, I try to make notes of anything big I want to change, or important details that I think I need to add. Of course, the more important details come later. Other things I try to consider on this read-through are things that look more like telling (the ultimate writing boo-boo), and POV issues. "How would he know what she's thinking?!"

Finally, something I find important in this edit, is referencing. When I start a story, I don't create a plot line. I give myself the beginning and let it go from there. I do, however, do extensive character outlines. Someday I will show you my questionaire. Anyway, the reason I do these things at the beginning, is because once I know the things like place and hair-color and whatnot are right, I forget about them. One less thing for me to worry about!

There are tons of great word processing programs out there. My favorite is Microsoft Word. In this edit, my favorite thing to do is use the red bubbles to keep notes (almost like sticky notes) and the highlighter to keep track of where I have a word repeated too often.

This whole little process, I find takes me a while. I disect every paragraph before I can move on. If you do happen to follow this, expect this step to take at least a month, maybe two. Don't be disappointed when it seems to take forever. The next time you read through, it will make more sense and will look exponentially better.

TOMORROW: Post two of this series about narration and setting! Until then. :)

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