Saturday, March 8, 2014
Editing, Editing, and More Editing
I've figure out something: whenever other authors give you advice regarding the writing process, they tell you what works for them. However, there's no guarantee the same things will be effective for you too. Listening to the advice is still useful though, because it can give ideas for new things to try.
When I started out I flew by the seat of my pants and crafted my stories slowly and fastidiously. Consequently I could give them to my beta reader chapter by chapter. Then halfway through Last Stop I realized I had to make at least a rough outline for the rest of the plot or I'd get lost. I knew how the story would end and the various things that needed to happen to get there, but linking them up in the right order was a challenge.
Also while writing Last Stop I lost steam twice in an OMFG-I'll-never-finish-this! fashion. And that book is barely over 50,000 words.
Since then my writing process changed. I make an outline in the form of a bullet point list, have names for my supporting characters and fictional locations, character sheets, etc. This is all flexible, of course—surprise supporting characters pop up, MCs reveal secrets about themselves, the plot thickens—but overall the underlying structure is there.
Another huge change I'd made is that now I rush ahead and write a very rough first draft. When I get stuck on something I leave a note and move on. I write what I call naked dialogue—without beats or even tags. I give myself stage directions, leave reminders to phrase something better, check accuracy of details, etc.
The benefit of this approach is that I reach the end relatively fast and without getting bogged down. To make the MS actually readable I have to do several passes of edits. First, I go through it and fill in the holes. Next I do another pass and refine the details. Then I make an ebook file and put it on my ereader—and let it sit there for a few days. The eventual read-through is the red pencil phase—I take copious amounts of notes, followed by another round of edits. And that's when the MS finally makes it to my beta readers.
Reading feedback from the beta readers is my favorite part but also the most painful one. This is when I get over my secret fears (This sucks! I suck!) but at the same time those pesky beta readers are excellent at skewering the lazy bits I thought I was getting away with, plus pointing out weak points I missed.
I don't know if there's anyone for whom writing comes easy, but if they exist, they have my full envy. Every time I send a manuscript to my editor I'm astonished I managed to get there.