Monday, April 21, 2014

Write, then Edit, then Edit Some More . . .

I'm getting beta reads back on a science fiction novel I wrote called The Treasure of the Black Hole.  Getting the beta reads done is the last step (almost) before submitting or publishing a novel.  At least, that's my opinion.

This is April.  That novel was a NaNoWriMo project.  That's five months almost since I finished the first draft to it being almost done.  I say "almost" because I want to read through it one last time.

Why haven't I stuck a fork in it and called it done?  Well, I'm about to, but, to paraphrase Orson Wells: I will submit nor publish no novel before its time.

In this blog I once said: "Your first draft will suck.  Get over it and write the damn thing."  And I stick by that.  Write your first draft either as a NaNoWriMo project or just sit down and write.  Just keep writing.

But when the first draft is finished, there is still a lot of work to do: months of work.  The manuscript needs to be edited by you at least twice, three times is better.  But before you edit it, you have to let it sit and the longer the better.  I call this process "festering."  The errors and bad writing become more blatant the longer it sits.  I have a writer friend who says she won't go back to a manuscript until she's started working on something else.  "I have to fall in love with something else so I can see it objectively."  I'm not that extreme but I do wait a minimum of a week but, as I said, the longer the better.

Then I have my wife and (if she's willing) a friend proofread it.  Proofreading is a different function from editing.  If I were doing a venn diagram, proofreading would be inside of editing.  But proofreading is more concentrating on typos, spelling errors, and punctuation while not looking at sentence structure or writing.  Proofreading has its place in the editing process.

Then I have someone read it out loud to me.  When I hear it and don't see it I pick up on things I don't when reading.  I hear word repetitions, clunky construction, stilted dialogue, and writing that just isn't up to my standards.  It works very well.

Then I let it sit again, and edit it again.  Then I do beta reads with as many people as I can get (this is where your writers' group comes in handy; you are part of a writers' group, aren't you?).  You want to get all the feedback you can because people see things you don't see.  Or they have questions that make you realize you didn't explain something well enough.

Then, read though it one last time, and stick a fork in.  There's a balance there.  You don't want to tweak a manuscript for ten years.  You have to, at some point, realize that it's good enough.  Or great enough.  You need to publish or submit it as is.  Will there be a typo in it?  Probably.  Will there be a sentence that isn't absolutely beautifully written. Very likely.  But you need, now, to submit or publish it.

Then start writing that next first draft (which I actually hope you started sometime during the editing process of the last manuscript).  Because you need to just keep writing.

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