A Mess of an Editing Process

When I first started revising Dire Fate, I began with a printed manuscript that I read and marked up diligently… until I got about halfway through and realized it wasn’t editing that the manuscript needed but one final revision. Granted, I still pulled from my original draft. In some places, I copied and pasted a paragraph or two from the original and into the new. But, for the most part, the story was old and the words were new.

I do feel inclined to add that when I say “original,” I do not mean that it was the first draft ever written. It is merely the first draft written since I took out one key character and adjusted the narrative the way it needed to be. The characters, the key points in the plot, and the space they need to play their roles, I’ve already become very familiar with.

How do you take your original draft and turn it into a final product.

First of all, it’s not a final product just yet. It’s important to remember that no matter how good your writing is, a novel is too big and complex for one person to master on their own. It took me too long to realize that it was okay for my manuscript to have some bumps and bruises. I just needed to do a few last things with it to make that tangle of a narrative neater and a little easier to comprehend, and then an editor could do the rest.

I’ve adjusted my process a little bit over the course of this project, and right now I feel pretty good about it. It begins with the rewrite, of course. Each chapter gets its own document (I use Google Drive because it is a writer’s best friend), and then I have a larger document with all finished chapters. The first, obviously, is where I write the current chapter I’m working on. The second, I use to look for details I’ve already included, to see if some information needs to be presented or to look up established canon so I don’t have conflicting information if I can help it. And I also keep up the original draft as I write, again for the sake of information, and for the ease of copy/paste if I get the opportunity to use old material.

For the first half of my new draft, I wrote chapter after chapter with relative ease, planning maybe only one or two chapters in the future just to have a sense of what the current chapter needed to accomplish. But after a certain point, around halfway through the narrative, I created yet another document and sketched out each chapter and what events would occur during those chapters. With a game plan, I’m a little less likely to trip and fall with my writing just because I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen next. It doesn’t always help, but it works well enough.

I write 600 words every day. It’s a number that feel very easy for me to accomplish, no matter how busy I am. I could easily write twice that number on an off day, but my goal is to have a consistent daily word count, because that works for me. And anyway, I’ve gotten familiar enough with my manuscript to estimate the average number of words per chapter, and 600 words per day meant I could get an entire chapter done, start to finish, with an extra day in case I’m too busy or just VERY AGAINST the idea of writing one day. It’s okay. It happens.

Five days later (six, if I took my allotted day off), and I’ve got a chapter written out fully. The seventh day is Editing Day, and this is probably the easiest day of the week. Hearing your words out loud makes it easier to spot mistakes, awkward sentences, and cringey interactions in general. I started off reading it out loud, even changing the font drastically because supposedly it makes it easier to spot the mistakes too when they look different than what you’re used to. The reading-aloud didn’t work well, especially when I came down with a sudden but nasty cold.

That’s how I found myself using Google Translate (which rendered the special-font thing pointless, anyway). Plug in a page of my manuscript at a time, push the play button at the bottom, and listen to Mystery Woman read my words out loud. It saves my poor throat, also helps me focus a little better rather than zoning out while I mouth the words.

To be fair, it’s not without its flaws. Mystery Woman sometimes is can be really good at guessing pronunciations of words that shouldn’t exist in her vocabulary. Other times, she can fumble over a word that definitely does exist in her repertoire. The names, she can mess up. And, of course, there’s no way for her to read emphasis via italics, since Google Translate doesn’t have an italics function. So I read along on the document while she says the words out loud. If there’s a major change I need to make, I’ll fix it, and have her reread the words with the changes.

After it’s finished, I’ll give myself at least a few hours. Then, I’ll reread over the chapter one last time, fixing any mistakes that catch my eye or adjusting any sentences that I hesitated to adjust last time but now realize that it could use the edit, etc. Once it’s got the clean bill of health, it’s copy/paste onto the full Draft 2 document, and it’s back to the beginning of the process.


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