Project: Edit is officially underway, and my manuscript is starting to bleed.
That’s a good thing, of course.
So, what does this editing actually look like? It’s one thing to say, “I read through twenty-five pages and made notes,” but another thing entirely to say how I’m doing that, or what I’m looking for along the way.
My second draft was a total re-write of the first, so in Phase One of Project: Edit, I’m reading through to, well, see if the changes worked. That’s still too broad, though. Here’s what I’m looking for, and how I’m doing it.
What I’m looking for:
- As I read the novel in its entirety, make note of how the pacing feels, if there are any dangling threads, any continuity issues as far as the plot and subplots go.
- Scene check: are all of my scenes actually scenes?¹
- Read with an eye for suspense: are any scenes dragging?
- Are any scenes or subplots or characters unnecessary?
- Are action, emotion, and theme woven imperceptibly and effectively?
- As far as story goes, is there too much of it? Too little?
- Have I been intriguing without being confusing? Or, are things too obvious?
- Make notes on what to improve.
- Make a general, very broad outline, along the way. (I’ve made outlines before, but since I strayed from them I want an organized account of the scenes I actually wrote).
How I’m doing it:
- With a blue spiral notebook and an artillery of colored pens, I’m reading it page by page. I’m not reading particularly fast, nor am I reading as slow as a snail.
- With red pens, mark the actual manuscript in places that sound weird, vague, boring, interesting, funny — anything that requires a “Look at this — this is what I’m talking about when I say ____.”
- With a normal blue pen, in the spiral notebook, write any and every thought I have pertaining to story, character, things that need tweaking/re-thinking, and things I like. I keep the list above in mind as I read, and make notes accordingly.
- With my colored pens (orange, fuchsia, lime, teal, purple, forest green), I’ve created a little color-coding system. I’ll circle or underline my spiral-notebook notes when I come to things that need more vivid or sensual description (orange), things that pertain to theme/things that need to be focused on more but are currently buried in clutter (fuchsia), scenes that need to be re-envisioned in order to work better (a purple “Re-E” written to the side), actions I need to take, such as look for every time ___ is mentioned to make sure it’s not too much (teal), loose ends (forest green)…things like that. The color-coding is so I can easily point out what needs to change, and how, when it’s time to actually go through and make the changes.
- I’m putting all of these notes under sub-headings (Chapter 1:Scene 1), giving them titles (“The Bridge”), and listing the pages of the manuscript on which they appear (p. 1-4).
- In the last section of this three-subject spiral, I’m keeping a running list of these things (Ch1:Sc1 – “The Bridge” p.1-4) and writing a brief description of what happens — or what is supposed to be the focus and is not happening — below it.
- If a scene is not working or needs to be re-done in order to work, I make a note in red about what, specifically, I’m thinking needs to change about it and marking it with the purple “Re-E.”
So, that’s my plan for Phase One, which I’ve scheduled to last from yesterday (18 January) until a week from Friday (29 January). I’m going to push hard to get through all 336 pages at a steady pace, setting myself up nicely for Phase Two (which is where I’ll start to make sense of, and begin to implement, the changes that need to happen, from large to small).
That’s the plan, we’ll see if it works.
And now, enough talk about this. It’s time to dive in and knock out some more scenes!
Revision Update, Phase One | 25 pages down, 311 to go
¹Taken from Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision Method,a scene: “has a start and a finish, characters and dialogue, engages at least one and sometimes all five senses, has conflict and change.”