I’ve been whingeing about editing steadily for nearly a month now. But you know what? IT’S OVER. I AM FREE. OH GLORIOUS DAY! I really do not like edits. I know it’s hard to tell. And while edits are utterly and absolutely necessary if my writing is going to be viewed by the eyeballs of others — it doesn’t make the task any easier for me.
Why? Oh, oh, let me tell you.
REASONS I DO NOT LIKE EDITING:
- There is pressure! When writing a first draft, the aim is to get it written, not right. But editing? I MUST MAKE THIS MONSTROUS MESS PERFECT.
- It’s slow. I write a book in 7 to 10 days. I edit a book in 7 to 10 years. OKAY HA HA. I joke. I edit a book in a month. But still. That’s insanely long and my poor squishy memory struggles to retain all the facts for so long.
- It’s tedious. Every word must be analysed. HeLP i hAVe lOST mY MInD.
- Afterwards, there is no excuse not to let people read it. Which is painful and nerve-wracking because what if the universe hates my baby?!
BUT STILL! It must be done. So I thought I would show you wonderful walruses my exact editing process. Because I am kind like that. And I know everyone edits insanely differently, so it’s very intriguing to compare, right?! ALSO. If you know you need to edit and have no idea where to start: something in my process might help you too! And, if nothing else, it’ll prove to you why I’m especially wildly insane whilst in editing mode. Because I’m 100% normal the rest of the time, right? RIGHT? Oh shush.
1. I’LL OPEN UP A NEW DOC AND PASTE THE BOOK ONTO IT AND PROCEED TO LABEL IT “DRAFT 2”.
Editing and rewriting are different things, but I (accidentally) use them interchangeably. For my draft 2s I always rewrite every word.
EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.
I keep the original “Draft 1” safe in another document (backed up, you hooligans. If you’re not backing up your writing in at least 2 different ways, then shame on thee and I hope you stop reading this post right now and GO FIX THIS) but copy it onto a new doc which I’ll label “Draft 2”. THEN I MAKE IT RED. It is a very fierce and nefarious thing which I do to motivate myself. As I retype every word, I turn it black as my heart, and therefore feel accomplished. It’s a visual representation of progress like ticking off a list, which is my favourite thing in the world and it’s crucial for me.
2. I MAKE GRAND GHOULISH GOALS.
These are breakable but, let’s be real. I’m a 98% overachiever so if I make goals, I do them or else spontaneously combust. When editing, the idea is for one chapter per day. But I was an idiot while writing Tremolo, and wrote insanely long chapters. So I edited upwards of 3,000+ words every day. Except for all the days I skipped because my brain failed and I just sat rocking in a corner like a vegetable chanting the words to the Russian polka.
My “reward” for finishing is…finishing. HA. I don’t actually reward myself whilst writing, although after finishing I do bribe myself with things like “You can rearrange your bookshelf!” or “you can sticky-tape the next book idea to your wall with string and sticky-notes!” Both are GREAT motivators.
Things I Bribe Myself With While Editing: 1 After you finish you can rearrange your bookshelf 2 Have library spree 3 Pizza 4 Conquer earth
— Cait (@PaperFury) August 3, 2015
3. I CRY A LOT AND PROCRASTINATE.
Remember those list of reasons why I loathe editing at the top of this post? LET ME CRY OVER THEM. Editing is intense and overwhelming and just makes me generally unhappy, so if I want to sob for a moment and tweet truths about procrastination, I will. Also I do NOT log off the internet. I get distracted. I DO. But I feel like removing myself 100% will only stress me further. Editing is about what works for you. So if I edit 1,000-words and need to tumblr for a while, I just do it.
4. I FORMAT THE BOOK AS I GO.
I like formatting because it makes me feel professional. And one must do things to make themselves feel professional because GOODNESS KNOWS I AIN’T PROFESSIONAL, FOLKS. Anyway. What was I saying? New Times Roman font, pt. 12, double spaced paragraphs, page numbers, and each-chapter-begins-on-a-new-page. #likeaboss I usually make myself a mock-cover for “Draft 1”, but that gets deleted now (oh fare thee weeeell my prettiness). This all could also be called procrastination from doing actual restructuring of words, but shhhh.
5. I WRITE LISTS OF THINGS FOR MYSELF.
For instance, Tremolo is a musical book and my poor little main character, Beck, has to play one song pretty much THE WHOLE FREAKING TIME. But what song? I changed it 9 times in “Draft 1” because I have the memory of a deluded watermelon. Those are the kind of things I fix now and make consistent.
OTHER THINGS I WRITE NOTES FOR:
- Descriptions. My characters always change eye colour 9 billion times.
- Awesome One-Liners. I like to keep themes going, repeat things, or play off some epic phrase I used once. With a memory like mine? HA. So I write all these down.
- German! There’s a lot of German phrases in this book. I didn’t want to use too many because a) I do not speak German, and b) you probably don’t either. If you do, you’re bilingually reading this blog and therefore you are 100 x more awesome than I. So I made sure my phrases were consistent and I had translations on hand.
- Lists of Things I Am Changing. I changed a lot of massive plot points in “Draft 2” so I always wrote them down.
- Names. Because I DON’T EVEN KNOW. I can’t remember my characters names! It’s weird. I blame this on having written so many books (this is, in fact, my 18th). But I needed a list of names on hand.
6. BECAUSE EDITING SUCKS OUT MY SOUL, I DO THINGS THAT KEEP ME EXCITED ABOUT MY BOOK.
Mostly this is tweeting funny lines or making fun of my own book. Which is surprisingly motivating. Also I demand my sister read chapters as I edit. And
if when she laughs this is great motivation. At least it helps me to know my whacky humour isn’t solely funny to me.
OH! And pinterest breaks! Writers moan about how pinterest is a black hole and once-you-get-sucked-in-there-is-no-coming-out. They are 400% right. BUT IT’S STILL INSPIRING. Plotting how my book looks visually helps me a) add in better description, and b) fantasising that I’m actually writing a movie which will someday be famous.
7. AND VERY, VERY IMPORTANTLY: I BEHEAD ALL WITH MY AXE.
I am a huge advocate of cutting. CUT EVERYTHING. If it is even remotely unnecessary, I axe it. I take out scenes that could be boring. I remove tedious details. My first draft was 57,000-words. Draft 2 ended up at a nice tidy 52,000. I am a happy squid about this.
8. I RUN AWAY WILDLY AND CELEBRATE.
My version of “wildly” involves:
- Reading several books in one day.
- Not writing ANYTHING for at least 9 hours.
- Buying a small, solitary island, moving there, installing WiFi and living happily ever after.
- Perhaps, even, two pieces of chocolate.
After I’ve gotten feedback from my betas, I’ll head into Draft 3 of edits and rewrites. And then…ALL THE NERVES…I shall send it on to my agent.
And there you have it! My process in a nicely consolidated list that doesn’t sound half so bad but is yet intensely painful while I’m doing it. At least there is a huge gulp of satisfaction while editing. I look at my manuscript now and think, “HA! HA! I BESTED YOU” which makes me feel monstrously fabulous.