Tuesday, December 4, 2012
SPINNING STRAW INTO GOLD: 12-DAY SELF-EDITING BOOTCAMP
The difference between a professional writer and a hobbyist is a well-polished manuscript. But with holiday travels, vacations, distractions, commitments, obligations, etc., constantly interfering, it leaves us very little time to write, much less revise a 50,000 word manuscript. And yet it can’t be avoided. But then, if we can write a novel in 30 days, we can edit in half that time.
The best way to spin straw into gold? One straw at a time, of course. Here’s a 12-day process to turn a dull, weak manuscript into submission-ready gold:
Day 1: Full read. Read over your manuscript for sense and consistency. Don’t stop to make any changes. Just read through and flag any inconsistencies or major changes that will need to be addressed, i.e. changes in scenes, adding something that will be essential to the story, doing more showing vs. telling, etc. Notate where these critical changes should be made as you read through. This can be done on either the computer or hardcopy. I recommend using the computer for the first 9 days of revisions as it will make tracking and implementing your changes easier.
Day 2-4: Make changes. Fill any plot-holes, correct any timelines inconsistencies, make scenes more active. This round will take some time and will require energy and focus so be sure to be thorough. It helps to incorporate the changes chapter by chapter to help keep the consistency going but if you’re a jumper (like me) do what’s comfortable to you.
Day 5: Smooth out POV. Be sure that there are no head-hopping happening and that it’s clear to the reader whose “mind” we’re in. Also, be sure the character is not describing something that they would not have the ability to describe, e.g. Roy stalked back to his office, his agitation evident from the tension in his shoulders. Since this is in his POV, he wouldn’t know what his shoulders looked like.
Day 6: Beware of “Author Intrusion”. This is when words like “meant”, “knew”, “felt”, “saw”, “sensed”, “heard”, etc. reveal that someone else besides the character is telling the story. Do a search of these words and remove them whenever it’s stating this is what the character is doing. This will help strengthen POV. For example: She saw the muscle in his jaw tighten. vs. The muscle in his jaw tightened.
Day 7: Strengthen your verbs and adverbs. Do a word search on common boring verbs, i.e. “said”, “was”, “walk”, etc., and replace them with stronger verbs. Then do a word search for all adverbs, i.e. all words ending with “-ly”, and either delete them or replace them with action verbs. Some adverbs are okay but use sparingly.
Day 8: Identify your “Writing Tics”. This could be a phrase, word, or action that is overused in your story. For example, for me, almost every dialogue for any character begins with “Well” or “Okay”. Simply do a word search for these tics and replace or delete them.
Day 9: Read dialogue out loud. This will allow you to hear for stilted or unnatural conversations between your characters. Make any necessary dialogue revisions, adding action tags where appropriate, e.g. Jack slammed the door shut behind them. “Where the hell have you been?”
Day 10-11: Read a printed copy of your manuscript. This is a final read to allow you to find and work out any kinks from the story and correct any grammatical and/or punctuation errors.
Day 12: Final once-over. You’ve made it to the last round! Incorporate any final changes from your printed copy but try to avoid making major revisions at this point, unless absolutely necessary. You don’t want to be trapped in an endless cycle of editing, which can happen!
Now breathe. Your gem is finally ready for submission. If you find this schedule too rigorous, just adjust it based on the length of your novel. And remember to take it one “straw” at a time.♥