Finding My Editing And Revising Groove

curved_arrow“OK, now I gotta go back over it from the beginning!” When you’re editing a novel, you’ll say this at least 37 times.

I was on a blogging hiatus for a while there! Sorry about that. Two major things kept me from blogging for the past while:

(1) Both of my cats passing away in August, less than a week apart.

(2) My final editing passes on Blood’s Force. Which is a real book now. Holy crap. :D

With (1), I’m still not quite ready to go into detail. Maybe I’ll have more to say about my babies later—they certainly deserve a fine tribute—but right now I’m not up for it.

The work on (2) has helped me keep my head. I found myself with 22 chapters to revise, reread, and hunt through for those insidious errors like accidental repetition, words left out, or two letters displaced (“complaint” vs. “compliant,” for example. I did that in a Daily WTF article once).

I accomplished this in two major passes. One was a thorough editing and revision pass, the second a “sanity” pass for cleanup purposes.

I’ll talk about the editing/revision pass first (sanity pass will be another article). For the first time ever, I fell into a really good groove with this process that I’d like to repeat later. I’ll lay out here what I did, and more specifically, why it worked for me. Everyone has different preferences and approaches. It’s all about finding what works best for you.

Here’s the naked process—or algorithm, if you will (gotta put that CompSci degree to good use now and then):

(1) Started at Chapter 1 with a “blank” mind and advanced in chronological order, tackling one chapter at a time for as long as necessary.

(2) I did an initial read-through of the chapter on my computer, making whatever changes I wanted. I already mostly knew what to fix based on my editor’s suggestions, but I’d also find typos, plot/character inconsistencies, and other things to iron out.

(3) Once the chapter was in a readable state, I printed it out double-spaced, in a different font.

(4) With the printout, I waited until at least the next day to re-read the chapter on paper. From there, I made further notes and revisions in pen. Waste of paper? Au contraire! My eye catches different things in different media. When the font is different, it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve never seen this stuff before, and makes me feel like I’m critiquing someone else’s work. Don’t worry, tree lovers, my city has a lovely recycling program.

(5) Typed in my revisions.

(6) Moved on to the next chapter!

The following factors made the above process work for me:

Flexible deadlines. Every week, I’d schedule day by day what tasks I hoped to complete. I aimed for 2-3 chapters edited per week. Sometimes I worked on the weekends, sometimes I didn’t. The scheduling was important for providing a clear idea of what I needed to do to feel “done” each day. But if I fell behind, I allowed that to happen and adjusted things accordingly. (See the point on compassion below.)

A set work time every day. Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 12:00PM were my working hours. Some days there were exceptions, like for doctor’s appointments or really bad surprises (emergency vet trips, sigh). No worries. The point is that as long as I devoted those hours to the book, I felt like I’d done my job. The rest of the day, I could spend however I wanted without feeling guilty. Sometimes I did do extra work on the book, but not terribly often. The time away was always valuable for refreshing my brain.

Compassion toward myself. When I fell behind my schedule or got frustrated with a bit of editing that just wouldn’t edit, I didn’t give myself shit for it. Since leaving the 9-5 rat race, I’ve worked hard to cultivate a compassionate inner voice, a “boss” who doesn’t fret or put me down when things don’t go perfectly. This has seriously cut down on the amount of anxiety and stress I feel overall.

Chronological sequence. Once you’ve written a whole book full of crap, and have another book full of all the crap you cut from the book, you’ll reach the point where you constantly ask yourself, “Wait, is that [scene/character/etc.] still in the book?” Starting fresh on page 1 and editing forward from there will let you experience what the reader is going to learn and when. If it doesn’t work, this is the time to fix it.

And for your sanity’s sake, please please PLEASE don’t edit until you’re done drafting! :)

If you have your own tried-and-true editing method, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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