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What Every Author Needs to Know about Editing

What Every Author Needs to Know about Editing

It seems like only yesterday, late October to be exact, that I was sitting down with my Dad talking about our family and writing a book in my head. October, the whole year in fact, was an emotional rollercoaster. It felt like every time I found my feet they were swept back out from under me.

 

I threw myself into writing Lives Paris Took with a vengeance. I had 5,000 words written before NaNoWrMo and had 53,000 written by the end of November. By December I was finished with the first draft, coming out at a solid 81,000 words. 

Because of the tough time I’ve had this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to be brutal about who I let into my life, who I let hurt me, and how I treat myself. I let my fitness regimen fall away completely. I didn’t stand up to myself. I was furious at the terrible treatment I got from loved ones. But then I realized that so much of it, I could control. I started pruning the branches of my life. I started saying no and not giving my reasons why. 

Editing is much like taking control of your life. There may be authors whose first drafts are these shining beacons of light sent straight down from their heavenly muses…but I am not one of them. My dialogue is contrived. The emotion is emotionless. The descriptions could be about a wooden box and it’s just generally very shallow.

When I embark on an edit it is with the attitude that this is where I shine the most as a writer. I can slog through the first draft, but I dance through edits. Constant revisions make the draft into a work of art.

I’ve finished the last edit now and it’s off to my copyeditor, Husband-in-Chief, for the final 'please check-all-of-my-commas’ edit. I honestly don’t know if there is a better feeling than finally compiling your manuscript in Scrivener and seeing transform from all of its disparate elements, into a novel.

In short, there are only two pieces of advice that you’ll ever need for editing. One is, work from the big picture to the small, and, two, smile while you are doing it. There’s nothing better than seeing it transform before your eyes.

Why You Should Give Up (on that first chapter)

Why You Should Give Up (on that first chapter)

why you should give up on that first chapter

The harsh reality of life, of the book writing life, is that many of us do not have a clear idea of our book’s endings or if we do, the characters do something that changes said ending. This creates the need for necessary changes during the editing process.

So why must you specifically focus on the first chapter?

The two must be mirror images of each other. It doesn’t matter if you have crafted the world’s best opening paragraph and the entire chapter sings with enchanted prose, if it does not create a duet, you’re in trouble.

When you come to the end of a first draft, you know the characters better. You understand that they have handled situations differently than you thought they would. They are no longer the same people that you created in chapter one, and sometimes they are going in completely different directions. 

For the sake of your readers, scrap chapter one. Read through your manuscript as though you were one of your readers, don’t take any notes. After you have finished, go back and read both the first and last chapters. These should be able to stand on their own. Is the prose similar? Is your protagonist facing the same kind of choices? Is his final victory reflected in chapter one?

If you can’t bring yourself to scrap the entire chapter (its not as bad as you’d think, trust me) then do this little exercise: write 3-4 different opening paragraphs. Push yourself. Try setting the scene differently. I went through four different settings for The Clouds Aren’t White and then changed again after the book was finished, because my protagonist and the plot were screaming for it.

So, give up on the first draft. Recreate your world and let the beauty of your writing shine.