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Topic of the week: Editing

Thanks to all the comm members who offered ideas for Topics of the Week. With today's post, there'll be a new format. Let's review:
  1. As before, the Topic of the Week will be posted Monday mornings.
  2. BUT, instead of asking for separate posts for responses, all responses shall appear in the comments to the Topic of the Week post. This way, only one inbox (mine) will get flooded. (Don't worry, I have a mop--it's a black square that says "Del" on it.)
  3. If possible, we ask that other non-urgent posts wait until Tuesday so that the Topic of the Week post stays at the top of the FFF page for at least a day.
Last week butterscotch82 asked:

I'd love to hear anything about editing. Once you're finished with the first rough draft of your novel, what type of schedule do you use to approach editing? Do you complete a first round of editing before sending the whole manuscript to your critique partner(s), or do you send a chapter or so at a time as you finish them? What do you love and hate about editing? On average, how long does it take you to complete a round/all the rounds of editing (not counting the edits your agent or editor will request from you)?

Keep those TotW's coming!  You can mention them here in the comments or e-mail them to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com. All comm members, authors and Watchers, are welcome to submit Topics of the Week.

Again: Please respond in the comments, not in a separate post.  Thanks so much!


--Jeri Smith-Ready

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
jer_bear711
Apr. 7th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
This is a great topic, and one for which we'll probably see a huge variety of responses. Thanks for submitting it!

I’ll just pick two to keep this short(ish):

Once you're finished with the first rough draft of your novel, what type of schedule do you use to approach editing?

I try to wait at least four to six weeks before I edit that rough draft. Meanwhile, I work on another project. This delay gives me the chance to look at the ms with a fresh eye. FWIW, Stephen King made the same recommendation in his book ON WRITING (we go way back; he comes to me for advice all the time ;-)

What do you love and hate about editing?

I love everything about it. I hate first drafts—to me it’s like sculpting air. But once I have something to work with, I adore rewriting, revising, and polishing (which are three different stages for me) to get it closer to what I imagined. For me, that's where the magic lies.

After I hear from my editor and beta readers, I’ll do a massive rewrite. The story will change, characters who once lived will now die (and vice versa)—it becomes a completely different book, with anywhere from 25-35% new material. Then another round of revising and polishing. That whole process takes a month to six weeks.

--Jeri
carrie_ryan
Apr. 7th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
Great topic! I've only really had one book that I put a lot of effort into the revisions for (and that one sold which is why I'm now a big fan of revisions!). I write the rough draft rather loose -- adding plot threads, changing plot threads, etc. as I go but not going back and editing those changes in. So when I get to the end of the book there's a lot I have to work on just to get the continuity straight. I don't tend to send anything out at this stage (except to one or two very trusted CPs) because so much could still change until I write The End.

So that's my first round of editing -- making the story consistent. Then my fiancé reads it and tells me what doesn't make sense, etc and I make those changes. Then I send to CPs and they tell me what works and doesn't and then I make those changes (I use the time the CPs have it to step back and try not to think about it too much). Then I generally wring my hands a bit and stress until one of my CPs forces me to take action (like forcing me to submit to agents). For my last book this whole process took about 4 months.

I used to hate revising, but I truly fell in love with it for my last book. I loved the story I was writing and it was just so awesome to be able to pull it all together and make it work. Now, I'm a huge fan of revising :)

- Carrie Ryan
stacia_kane
Apr. 7th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
This is so funny, I almost blogged on this topic today at my own blog.

I send to my cps in chunks, usually 3-5 chapters at a time. I don't generally go back and change things until the book is done (sometimes I do, but not always) but I keep the changes I'm going to make in mind as I write the rest, so I can accomodate them.

Once the book is done, I go back and fix those, and any issues I'm thought of on my own--if I know I didn't make the baddie bad enough I go back and punch him/her up, if I know I forgot to plant a clue I do it. I add whatever extra scenes I think I need and reread anything that's stuck in my head as a problem spot. Then I go through the whole thing and look for repeated words or wonky phrasing or whatever and fix that--not story stuff, really, just technical.

I set it aside for a few weeks. Then I go back and re-read, this time making notes on the story. When I'm done with that I make those changes, then read the whole thing again. And that's basically it. If I wasn't pleased with the re-read I may go more in depth. If the final re-read still has problems I fix those. I send it out to a beta reader to get general feedback at that point too, and make whatever changes I feel are necessary.

I love editing. It's like seeing the book come to life. Before it was a disjointed collection of scenes and images. I have no idea when I'm writing if the book as a whole works. There are always parts I like and parts I hate--and I usually edit a bit as I go, again just technical stuff--but it isn't until that first read-through that I really have a sense of what I've done and how it's worked.

I edit fast, too. Each round usually only takes a couple of days.

shanna_s
Apr. 7th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
I think my methodology varies with each book. I don't have a critique partner, other than my mom who acts as proofreader and logic checker. I generally write a few chapters, then go back and clean them up and send a chapter at a time to my mom on the first draft. That's for story flow and because she nags me about getting the next chapter, which forces me to keep writing. Once I have the whole book, I take a step back and analyze the whole thing for plot, characterization, flow, etc., and do another pass, sending sections to my mom along the way for proofreading. Then I send it to my agent, who tells me that nothing happened in most of the major scenes, so I rewrite again. :-)

Actually, I've now learned to anticipate my agent's comments, so I can fix whatever was wrong with the previous book in the next book, where I will learn about a new problem that I need to fix.

I tend to write in layers and do a really fast first draft that then needs to be fine-tuned, and that means I usually have a lot of drafts. I'll write the first draft in three weeks, then spend six months editing.

Shanna Swendson
swan_tower
Apr. 7th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
I rarely if ever let people read a novel as I'm working on it, and only sometimes let them read it before I've had a chance to at least do one pass of polishing over it. Having people read a work in progress makes me twitchy, and I figure why have them critique a totally unedited ms, when I can already see a bunch of things that need fixing? So I try to fix the major stuff first, and then get feedback. As for how long it takes me, not counting professional edits -- maybe two weeks? Up to a month, I suppose. I tend to either produce reasonably clean drafts, except on those occasions when I've produced a total dud and had to rewrite it from scratch. (Which takes rather longer.)

What I love about the process is that it's like bringing a string into tune, or shaving those last few slivers off a carving, or whatever metaphor you want to use; it (ideally) turns the work from a lightning bug to lightning, to paraphrase Mark Twain. There's a subconscious feel to it that's very satisfying.
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butterscotch82
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
I was thrilled to see this topic chosen! Thank you so much to all the authors who are answering my questions! I've enjoyed reading all the responses, and now I have some great ideas for solving my editing problems. I love FFF and the respect you show to fellow writers/readers. Thanks again! :)
janni
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Heh. I just talked about my drafting process about a week ago, so I'll cheat and repost here. :-)

=-=-=-=-=

One of the useful things about writing short fiction is, it reminds me in a sort of snapshot form what my writing process is like.

I turned in a short story a few days ago--and looking back, it took me five drafts:

Draft 1: Write the wrong story. But sort of kind of get a feel for what the right story is about. (The exploratory draft.)
Draft 2: Write the right story. But with all the wrong words, muddled arcs, and not enough sensory vividness.
Draft 3: Get something approaching the right words. Only with lots of the wrong words still mixed in.
Draft 4: More right words. Not so many wrong words. Much tighter.
Draft 5: Polish until my teeth hurt.

Or something like that. This is pretty much a minimum, for me--that story went unusually smoothly. Any one of these draft stages can get repeated multiple times. (Truly. Eight or ten drafts or more are not out of line.)

But it's good for me to remember this. Because today I finished the second draft of a work in progress, and it really is a merry muddle.

But instead of despairing, I look at the above and think, no, draft two is right on target for what a draft two generally is, given my writing process.

And for about the millionth time, I take that leap of faith: There is a book here. I'll get there yet.
cheymccray
Apr. 8th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)
"
Last week butterscotch82 asked:


I'd love to hear anything about editing. Once you're finished with the first rough draft of your novel, what type of schedule do you use to approach editing? Do you complete a first round of editing before sending the whole manuscript to your critique partner(s), or do you send a chapter or so at a time as you finish them? What do you love and hate about editing? On average, how long does it take you to complete a round/all the rounds of editing (not counting the edits your agent or editor will request from you)?
"

I have one critique partner who I send my manuscript to chapter by chapter, and then I send her the entire thing at once, and then I submit it to my editor. I revise (my editor looooves revisions) and my main crit partner reads the revision. I have another critique partner, sometimes 2, who I send the entire thing to all at once after the editorial revision.

My crit partner and I have been together for 8 years and we hit it off right away. Once reason is because we are so fast. I'll send a chapter to her and she'll have it to me the same or the next day, and I do the same for her. When we do a complete book we'll take probably a weekend.

I don't hate editing until I get my editor's edits. ;-)
jenniferestep
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
I write a really, really crappy and short first draft -- usually about 40,000-50,000 words. So when I start my second draft/revisions, that's when I really dig in and expand the story and add all the little details that are going to make it work (hopefully).

I also let a manuscript sit for at least a few weeks before I start working on it again. Like Jeri said, it gives you a fresh eye to look at your work.

As far as how long it takes, it depends on what stage I'm at. I usually do three or four drafts before I sent something to my agent. The time gets quicker between the drafts -- sometimes it can be as little as two weeks.

What do I love about editing? Finishing of course! :-)
jackiekessler
Apr. 9th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
Do you complete a first round of editing before sending the whole manuscript to your critique partner(s), or do you send a chapter or so at a time as you finish them?

I tend to do a light edit as I go. Can't help it; it's in my blood. I've been a professional copy editor for more than a decade, so I really can't help it. I tend to send a chapter or a beginning chunk to my crit partner, just to help make sure I'm on track/that I've found the right voice. Then I write the whole thing, give it a clean read and make some tweaks/changes, then send it to my C.P.


What do you love and hate about editing?

Man, I love editing -- that chance to make the writing really sing...ah! Love it! I don't hate anything about it...as long as I can do it all electronically.


On average, how long does it take you to complete a round/all the rounds of editing (not counting the edits your agent or editor will request from you)?

Usually a day. I get very focused. (Loosely defined as "obsessive.")

Jackie Kessler
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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