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Posted by: M.J. Fifield | on June 1, 2022
All right, so I feel like I should start off by explaining a little about my editing/revision “process” (yes, I felt the need to put that in quotation marks. Draw your own conclusions.). This is what comes after me finishing the first draft and sticking it in a drawer for at least three months. There are a couple of other steps which follow this list, but they’re way far away, so I’ll leave them out for now.
Step One: The Read-through. I print out a hard copy of the manuscript and read it, making many, many corrections and notes about problem areas with character, plot, and everything in between. Some of these notes even make sense. In theory.
Step Two: So It Begins. I sit down at the computer and start making changes to the manuscript, based on the issues found during the read-through. Step Two focuses on the easier fixes—typos and the like. Basically things which don’t require a ton of thought and/or effort to correct. Things that end up requiring more thought and/or effort are moved to a list of Things To Be Dealt With Later.
Step Three: It’s Later. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s time to start digging into and dealing with the list of Things To Be Dealt With Later. This list seems to get a new name for each book. Last book, it was called “Editing Shit Deemed To Difficult To Deal With The First Time Around”. This book, it’s called “Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List”. Because I’m clever like that. Also, because I enjoy profanity perhaps more than I should.
Step Four: Send It To The Betas. Worry and wait. Wait and worry. And hope like hell I sent them something actually worth reading. But remain convinced that I definitely did not.
Last week, I finished Step Two and moved on to Step Three and the Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List.
(For anyone keeping score at home, Step Two saw me delete an additional 10,000 words from this manuscript. The current word count going into Step Three is just over 225,000.)
The Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, is 44 pages long. Which is a lot, but it’s not the longest editing list I’ve ever had (That was around 300 pages. True story.). Which, of course, makes me worried that I missed a lot of things. I’m sure I missed stuff—I always do—but what if I missed too many things? Or the most important things? Or even the really stupid obvious things I really should have caught a long, long time ago?
(Have I mentioned that anxiety is my co-pilot?)
But whatever. It’s a long list. The length of the list isn’t really the point of this post. Not that I’m sure what the point of this post really is. This post may not even really have a point at all. (Makes you want to keep reading, though, doesn’t it?)
A lot of the items on this list are issues with either weak or nonexistent transitions. When writing a first draft, I occasionally (fine, maybe often) use Dick-And-Jane type sentences to get me from one section to the next. They’re basic and terribly lazy writing, but they’re meant to be a placeholder so I can get the story itself down on paper. This is the editing round where I have to improve those transitions. Somehow.
I also seem to have a lot of notes about the need to inject description of various things as well as emotion and/or movement into particular scenes. There’s a little bit of fact-checking to be done that I was apparently feeling too lazy to do during Step Two. I’ll probably do those first during this round because, again, they shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming. (Keyword being ‘shouldn’t’, I suppose…)
I have one stupid, stubborn character who continues to be a pain in my ass. This is the same character, by the way, who was supposed to die in this book and then…didn’t (so, so happy!). But his motivations early on in the story are…uneven at best. A casualty of an evolving storyline. So I need to go back and iron some things out. Time-consuming, sure, but not impossible.
And then there are the two woefully underdeveloped storylines. These two fixes will be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Which means these two things will very likely be the very last things I tackle. One is the villain arc. Which is not surprising. I never get the villain arc right the first time around, and it usually isn’t finalized until some time after the beta reader round. (It just takes me a long time to work out all the details, I guess.)
The other storyline is a subplot that joined the first draft party pretty late and, as a result, is in desperate need of development because I’m pretty sure ninety percent of the notes I wrote during those scenes were some variation of “Yeah, but…why?” Sadly, deleting the subplot altogether is not an option. I considered it (Of course I did. Deleting the damn thing would have been waaaaaaaaay easier than figuring out how to make it work.) but for the moment, at least, it remains necessary.
My hope is that addressing (maybe even fixing? Dare to dream…) these two problematic plot lines (along with everything else, of course…) will help me get over those feelings of “Something’s wrong with this book, but I don’t know what” that have been plaguing me for a while now. And if not…well, we’ll cross that bridge when (if) we come to it.
So that’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. I have no idea how long Step Three will take. Way longer than I would like, that’s for sure, but beyond that…who knows.
Certainly not me.