Editing: What I’ve Learned

Blogland,

Today marks the start of the second round of edits for my first novel, The Steel Armada. It was supposed to be yesterday, but I spent over four hours on the phone catching up with my grandma. Sorry, not sorry. I love that lady, and I relish our time spent gabbing.

So, today then. This is something I’ve been working toward for a long time, in fits and starts. I started editing the rough draft on March 8th, 2014. I know because I always write the date at the top of each chapter when I dive in. I was six months into school then, and a few days into my new job at the library. I was working 60 hour work weeks.

So, understandably, I didn’t complete the edits on the final chapter until December 8th, 2015. It took almost two years to finish editing the rough draft. I wasn’t very committed to getting the thing done. It was something I did when I felt overwhelmed by school and life, and needed a quick escape.

This time around, I’ll be much more diligent and disciplined. I have a timeline, and the time to stick to it.

So, what’s my plan of attack? I’m not one hundred percent sure just yet. What I need to consider is what I learned from editing the first draft.

  1.  Editing is so much more than grammar and punctuation. I mean, these things are important, and I spent a lot of my editing time cleaning up lines by honing in on weak sentences and strengthening them. But, all the cleaning up and tightening doesn’t do much to help gaps in the plot, or under-developed worlds and characters.

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    Page 1, Rough Draft and Second Draft

  2.  Rewriting is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how much I love a scene, if it doesn’t work, it does not work. In that case, things get cut and possibly replaced. There were some scenes that I had to try from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes that worked; more often than not it gave me clarity to re-approach the scene from the original point of view in a way that was more effective.
  3.  New content comes along. When there are gaps in the story, or characters who need fleshing out, new material is the answer. The rough draft is not the end of writing. It’s writing your novel within the structure you’ve already created, which I found fun and challenging. It’s like your novel is offering you writing prompts!
  4.  Have a support group! No matter how much time I spend away from this book, I can’t seem to get quite enough distance to diagnose the draft one hundred percent. And I think that’s normal. This is something I made. 181 printed pages of my imagination. It is a part of me, no matter how long I try and ignore it. These characters are part of me, this world is part of me, and these happenings are mine. Having outside opinions helps me peer through all that unavoidable bias, and give me an ego boost when I’m swimming in writerly loathing.
  5.  There’s always more work to be done. This is the hardest one, for me. It’s hard to want to keep editing, to keep plowing on, when I keep finding things that aren’t perfect. When I called the rough draft complete, and officially started referring to it as “Draft #2”, it was bittersweet. I was proud of the work I’d accomplished, and the changes between drafts were pretty dramatic, but I knew that there were mountains yet left to climb. And deep down, I don’t know if I’ll ever cease discovering new peaks. I don’t know when to call it “done”. I’m hoping I’ll just magically know when the time comes.
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Final page, Rough Draft and Second Draft

There’s always more work to be done… That is the truth. So, what are my goals for Draft #2?

  • World building. This world has all the potential to be something great. But, The Steel Armada was my first attempt at Fantasy, and it shows. Since writing this book, I’ve written another Fantasy manuscript, am half way through another, and wrote four Fantasy short stories for publication. Not to mention the mountains of reading I’ve done. My ability to build worlds is growing every day, and it’s time to flex that muscle in Val’s world.
  • Character development. These characters aren’t bad. A couple of them are even well-drawn and fleshed out. But there are quite a few that fall flat for me. There’s more to them, and I need to give them the time they deserve. It will only help.
  • Tone. I know what this story is about. I know where the plot leads and that there’s a pretty political overtone. But that’s not consistent through the novel. That needs fixed.
  • Completion. I want to get this novel to a place where I am content to let it rest. I want to feel good about this book. Confident. Proud that I can call it my first book. Willing to query an agent with it. That’s the real goal of this round of edits.

That’s where I am, heading back into editing. These are the things I’ve learned, and the things I want to accomplish. I’m nervous, and excited. Getting The Steel Armada into a “final draft” means I’ll be free to start editing Cards, and I am dying to do that. But, I’ve been stalwart this entire time. I refuse to start editing the next manuscript until this one’s done. I won’t break now.

No. Now the real work begins. Again.

 

BZ

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