So in typical fashion, I sent out the series of questions to the writers that I interview weekly. Those wonderful people who are dedicating some of their time to helping other writers—from fledgling to more experienced. You remember them: Rusty, William, Melissa.
Rusty wanted to make it interactive. So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve changed the format to more of a round table discussion.
While I’ve committed to being more of an interviewer, a conduit of information … the thing is: I’m not only a writer, but I’m also an editor—for a publisher. So after Rusty’s invitation to join in, though I don’t know whether or not I’ll contribute every time, I can add a bit here.
We talked about NaNo. After NaNo comes the dreaded--or not so dreaded by some--EDITING.
1. Do you edit when a project is complete? Or as you write?
Rusty: Over my years of writing, I’ve discovered this amazing truth: when a project is complete, you don’t have to edit any more. Actually, I guess that’s my definition of ‘complete.’ It’s that work to get there that takes all the editing.
William: I am definitely an 'after' editor. One of the big goals of NaNo is to 'turn off the Inner Editor' and just get the words out.
Melissa: I must agree with Rusty and William. The editing is the toughest part. I've tried to edit both ways and find that a mix of the two works best for me. Trying to edit as I go, stops me cold, while not editing at all leaves one heck of an editing project at the end.
Rusty: OK, admit to being a bit of a smartass with my first answer. The important thing in the first draft is to get the story on the page. Editing uses a different part of the brain, and get definitely get in the way of creativity—not to mention productivity.
Stella: I find that now I edit as I write. Every few days or so I put the entire manuscript I’m writing on my e-reader (in my case, it’s a Kindle) and I read it from start to the last word I’ve written. This way I get in a bit of line editing in while I’m ascertaining that my concept holds up. Of course, it’s not perfect, and everyone needs an editor, but this allows me to minimize plot holes and loose ends.
2. How many times do you edit a manuscript, start to finish?
William: That is a variable question. Once the manuscript is done, I let it sit for a few weeks then go in and read with a fresh outlook. Full edits can take a while, and I have a tendency to over-edit myself.
Melissa: For me, every story is different and one may need more edits than the next. I'm not sure I can even pinpoint an exact count, so I'll just say lots.
Rusty: I have a very disciplined system of editing, with an objective for each pass. After I finish a first draft, I let it sit for a least a week, usually two. Then I read the entire work (on a paper copy) and make copious notes about what should be improved. More than half of the changes are content changes. When you’re a ‘pantser,’ a lot of things change from the start to the finish that you have to clean up the next time around.
Again, let it sit and read it all again. Then the 2nd editing pass is for polishing. Getting the words rich, the prose punchy, etc. There should be minimal content problems at this point, so I can focus on the language.
Stella: Unlike Rusty, I don’t read on paper copy anymore. I read on my Kindle. And as I mentioned earlier, I start at the beginning and read through to the last part I’ve written. This tightens it up substantially. I also don’t do the PANTSER thing. I pretty much know how it will start and how it will end. I do allow for a bit of flexibility in the middle but since I outline and have most of it sorted I try to stick with it. I’ve found that my biggest challenges in editing have been trying to fix plots when I’ve gone astray. What a mess!
3. Do you have anyone that helps you with the edits? How does that work? Do you meet or exchange emails?
Melissa: I have several people who help during the editing process. Friends, family, other writers get the first go around checking for clarity and minor flaws. Then it's off to my editor for the final run through and more in-depth edit. This is all done through emails. Thank goodness for technology!
William: I have some good friends who read my stuff and I do the same for them. As of late, though, I am not sharing as I used to, simply because the book has taken on a drastic change and I am not yet comfortable with it to share. I always prefer to be finished with the book before anyone reads it, but I will share chapters I think are particularly good.
Rusty: I release 1st drafts chapter-by-chapter to about a half dozen readers. Many of them have been with me since the beginning. At first, this was mostly for encouragement; now, they give me broad feedback and keep me on track. Plus this performs another valuable function: it defines that “this chapter is done for now.” So I never spend time reworking chapters that have already been released.
One of my 1st draft readers is my writing partner. She and I close read every word each other writes, provides written feedback, and meet weekly to discuss. My writing has improved dramatically since I began using a writing partner.
With my last 2 novels, I’ve posted chapters after the 1st round of edits on my blog 3 times a week. That brings in a whole new set of eyes. The comments there are very helpful (although I end up ignoring a third). And it definitely keeps me working to a deadline.
Stella: I have a few beta readers that give me feedback with certain plot points. I don’t brainstorm in a group and I don’t run my storylines past anyone before I write. I’ve found that this leads to too many people telling me how I should write a story that is my own. This is why I related to Rusty’s blog about the matter.
4. If you need help with editing do you go to anyone specific?
Rusty: One of my worst skills is proofreading. Fortunately, I have an excellent proofreader who enjoys the process and will proofread for free, if I’m not on a tight schedule (which I’ve managed to avoid so far). Otherwise, I don’t know anyone that is a particular help with editing before a manuscript is accepted and they call in the professionals.
William: Oh, yes. Melissa is one of them!
Melissa: I have a special group of friends (Waving at you, William!) who help me during those times I find myself struggling to make the pieces fit just right. I'd be lost without them.
Rusty: You two do editing assistance? Where do I sign up?
I think next time we’ll ask Rusty, Melissa, and William about their journey to publication!