Editing Update: Onto Step Two

In case you’ve missed it, the theme of my year (and possibly next year and maybe even the year after that) is editing and revising a little hot mess of epic proportions I like to call Full Circle, the third book in my epic-ish fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles.

In my last post, I talked about Step One of the process. Or, you know, my process. There’s no one process that works for everyone. We’re all delightful individuals, so what works for me may not necessarily work for someone else. Which I imagine is true. I mean, it barely works for me, so I can’t imagine it working for anyone else. But whatever. That’s a different post for a different day, maybe.

But, to recap, Step One involved printing out a hard copy of the manuscript and reading it and making notes (many, many notes) about what changes need to be made. These changes could be minor fixes, such as typos and missing words, misplaced commas, etc. They could slightly more involved fixes, such as awkward word choices or over used words (seriously—my characters nod so much, it’s amazing their damn heads haven’t fallen off) or awkwardly phrased sentences or interrupted story flow. Or they could be even more involved fixes like continuity issues or characters who mysteriously disappeared who need to be found, and a whole host of other things such as dialogue that adds length but not substance to the story, and narrative that serves an overall story plot arc that no longer exists. This step involves a lot of pens and highlighters because, as a first draft, this story is a mess.

But now, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m moving on to Step Two. I completed the read-through last month, and now I have a 755-paged manuscript with pages that looks like this:

So now, I am hard at work (or perhaps hardly working) on Step Two. The step where I attempt to fix all of those problems I found during the read-through, as well as the problems I’ll find while attempting to fix the other problems because I missed them the first time around, and the problems that will inevitably appear because of the snowball/avalanche effect that automatically comes with making changes to a story.

I tend to start off with the smaller, easier fixes and work my way up to those requiring more brain power. I keep track of those tougher problems in my notebook in a section usually titled “Editing Shit Deemed Too Difficult To Deal With The First Time Around”, and round and round I’ll go until all the changes have been made and I end up with something resembling a second draft.

Which has served me reasonably well in the past (meaning that, eventually, I do actually finish a second draft), but this time, there are some big, labor-intensive fixes early on in the book that need to be addressed RIGHT NOW because they will determine how some later scenes will go.

Which means I am not exactly crushing it right now.

Step Two is labor-intensive and time-consuming (at least for me), and I anticipate this will take me months to complete. Because, you know, it always does.

Right now, my goal is to have it done by April, as we have some family coming to visit early on in the month, and it’s also the first Camp NaNoWriMo session of the year and my focus will be on those two things. Is this goal at all realistic? Hell, no. Not in the least. Could I surprise myself? Probably not, but it could happen.

(Narrator: It would not happen.)

If it doesn’t happen (Narrator: It won’t), I’ll revise the goal, assess where things are, and pick a new date.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Until it’s done.

So, that’s gonna do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by—it’s always appreciated!

Stay safe and well, all.

21 Commentsto Editing Update: Onto Step Two

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    I love finding out how other people work! We definitely are delightfully different!
    I keep a running bullet list of To Add, To Delete, To Change as I’m writing my first draft.
    Sometimes (for me) it’s just easier to forget that first draft and rewrite it completely now that I know the story 🙂
    Best of luck!!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I love hearing how other authors tackle different aspects of the writing and editing process, too. It’s always so interesting how different our paths can be.
      I did consider for a while the possibility of throwing out the first draft completely and starting fresh, but there were a couple of scenes toward the end of this draft that nudged me over into the salvage side of things. So, we’ll have to see if that was a good choice or not. 😐

  2. Wow, are those really your pages? I feel like such an editing slack now…

  3. Good luck is all I can say.

  4. Those manuscript pages are beautiful! Keep them. They will bring back some treasured memories.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Oh, I’m a hoarder when it comes to old manuscripts. It’ll move to a box in the closet eventually, along with the other marked-up first drafts.

  5. Chrys Fry says:

    I love learning about your process and other writers’ processes because it does look different for everyone, as you said.

    I’ve definitely had pages that looked like that, but minus the highlighter. Now I can’t believe that I’ve never used highlighters. That’d be a lot prettier than circling a chunk of text with pen, as I tend to do on my printed manuscripts.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I used to use multiple highlighters on a manuscript—a different color for each problem. Created a real rainbow of a manuscript.

  6. I tend to start with the smaller fixes, although it would be better to do the big ones first as that might eliminate some of the smaller ones.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Usually my bigger fixes can wait, but every now and then, I get some with big picture implications that throw a wrench into my plans.

  7. Keep heart! This journey is rough sometimes, but it’s always worth it in the end.

  8. Liz A. says:

    So, how many pens and highlighters did you use?

    Hey, if it works… And sure, it should take you some time. That’s cool. You’ve been fighting with this book for a while. It’s getting there, and during a global pandemic and all the other crap that’s going on. That you’re managing to complete anything is a miracle, really.

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      Can’t announce the final pen count yet, so I’ll just say more than I thought but far less than what some people guessed. 🙂

  9. JE Oneil says:

    Whew, that’s a lot of notes and highlighting. No wonder you go through so many pens!!!

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      I was actually surprised I didn’t go through more pens with this read-through. I must have bought the Energizer Bunny of pens.

  10. Kate says:

    That’s a lot of notes! I tend to leave myself notes throughout the MS as I write so I can go back and fix things later. And when I’m editing, I do the same so I don’t lose my way. I generally never print out a copy to work on until I feel like I’m almost done editing. Then I always find a bunch more stuff to fix…

    • M.J. Fifield says:

      It’s amazing how much more stuff you find to fix, then, isn’t it? I start out with a printed copy, then usually do one last printed copy toward the end for that very reason. Changing the way we look at a manuscript does it every time.

  11. I’m in awe of your 755-paged manuscript – what an awesome visual.
    I bow to your amazing highlighter-editing skills!
    Good luck with the manuscript!

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