Monday, July 15, 2013

How long should a micro edit take?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Today is (I'm fairly sure) the last day for the sale of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. So if you're wanting it for your Kindle/Kindle app for $2.99, make sure to grab it before the sale expires.

I've been frantically working on edits for the second Ellie Sweet book, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, which hits digital bookshelves this November. It had been awhile since I had done a micro edit, and I had forgotten just how time consuming and mentally absorbing the process is.



After complaining to my husband that each page seemed to be taking a half hour to edit, I decided to time myself on a few full pages (not ones with chapter headers and such) which are usually about 500 words long. Here were my results: (Minutes/seconds)

16.38
37.03
26.02
29.44
36.07
19.46
18.38
24.51
26.55
18.47
25.18
26.51
11.08
23.56

But why was does it sometimes take thirty-seven minutes to edit 500 words? Because the micro edit is the time to question everything.

Is that the word I want to use? Did I research that fact? Should I move this scene to later? Why is this character here but not another character? This scene says it takes place Monday, but that can't be right for this and this reason. What's a non-cliche way to describe relief flooding a person?

And on it goes.

I thought you might be interested in seeing the before and after. These are two different sections that I reworked on Saturday. Since this is from the sequel to The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, I tried to pick bits that wouldn't give away anything too big:

First draft:

Mom holds my gaze until I turn and look at the TV, feigning interest in the man screaming at me about the outrages of publicly funded preschools.
On the drive home, as we pass Karen’s old house, Mom looks over her seat and asks, “Does Karen know Leo’s back in town?”
It’s not betraying my aunt to say yes, is it? Mom had sounded so worried over having to break the news to her. I nod.
“Has she seen him yet?”
I bite my lip. That might be conveying too much information.
“Never mind.” Mom faces forward again. “I don’t want to put you in a bad situation with your aunt.”
“Thank you,” I whisper.* (This asterisk means that when I wrote my first draft, I didn't want to use the word whispered, but I couldn't think of anything else, so I left it but made an asterisk to tell my future self - "hey, replace this later.)
Micro-edited draft:

Mom holds my gaze until I turn and look at the TV, as if I’m interested in the red-faced man hollering about the outrages of publicly-funded preschools.
On the drive home, as we pass Karen’s old house, Mom looks over her seat. “Does Karen know Leo’s back in town?”
Is it betraying my aunt to say yes? Mom sounded so worried about having to break the news to her…
I nod.
“Has she seen him yet?”
I bite my lip. That seems like more than I should divulge.
“Never mind.” Mom faces forward. “I don’t want to put you in a tough spot with your aunt.”
And then I cut that last sentence because I decided Ellie would probably just stay quiet. Here's another one:

First draft:
I draw in a deep breath. “I’m worried about you. All week, you’ve kept getting worse. I just…just wanted to call.”
This time, Palmer sighs. “You didn’t have to do that, Gabrielle. I told you, I’m a big boy, and I can handle this.”
“You seem like you haven’t been sleeping well.”
“I can handle a little sleep loss. It’s late, and you should be sleeping.”
“My Grandmom mentioned you at dinner tonight,” I say. “She said she missed having you bring her lunch, that you were always real friendly.”
Palmer snorts. “You’d never have known she thought that by the way she acted.”
“Grandmom always likes people better in hindsight. Even me. She always talks like I was some magical child, but I remember when I was a child feeling like I was the biggest pain in her butt.”
His chuckle is soft. “That’s hard to imagine. I bet you were a great kid. The quiet type who sat in the corner and read.”
“Something like that.”
And the micro-edited version:

I draw in a deep breath. “I’m worried about you. All week, you’ve kept getting worse. I just…wanted to call and see if I could help.”
“I told you—I’m a big boy. I can handle this.”
I wind a curly strand of hair around my finger. Unwind. “You look like you haven’t been sleeping well.”
“I can handle a little sleep loss. It’s late—you should be sleeping.”
“My Grandmom mentioned you at dinner tonight.” I brush back my bangs from where they tickle my forehead. “She said she misses you bringing her lunch. That you were always ‘a real friendly young man.’”
Palmer snorts. “You’d never know she thought that by the way she acted.”
“I’m convinced Grandmom likes people better in hindsight. Even me. She’ll talk like I was some magical child, but as a kid I always felt like I was the biggest pain in her butt.”
“That’s hard to imagine. I bet you were a great kid. The quiet type who sat in the corner and read.”
I smile in the dark of my room. “Yep, that was me.”
When I'm doing micro edits, I rarely leave a sentence untouched. And if I do, it's after I stared at it for a minute and thought through other options.

While this round of edits is tedious, it means that my next draft will be mostly polishing, tweaking, and smoothing. That read-through goes much quicker.

Any questions about micro-editing? Do you enjoy editing? What's your favorite/least favorite part?

And, since today is Connor's third birthday, and since I rarely pass up opportunities to show pictures of my kids, here's one I snapped of him at his baseball birthday party last Friday:





23 comments:

  1. Actually, I've never get any further than the first draft... (shame on me). But somehow, I think I'd enjoy it in one way or another. It's just...playing with words, you know. Choosing which words say the thing you want to say.

    Something totally different: I made a kind of promo for my current project. Can you guys watch it and give some feedback please?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDrxOuu1lOM

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    1. Sure Arende!
      -Shaneene

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    2. Just watched and liked! I commented, but didn't realise I was still logged in on my sisters account. Whoopsies.

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  2. Awwww Connor is soooooo cuuuuuuuute!!!! I do like editing. I've really seriously been considering it as a career. One of my author friends has said she'll let me ask her editor some questions about it :)

    Stephanie, what's wrong with Palmer? Why hasn't he been sleeping well? What does he insist he can handle even though it's obvious he can't? Tell us!!!

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    1. I guess all the best stuff comes out in November, huh? Catching Fire AND Ellie #2!

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    2. OMG I CAN'T WAIT FOR CATCHING FIRE!! :)

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    3. I know I know I know right!!

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  3. Sometimes I like editing, sometimes I don't. I completely agree that it's very time consuming and can be energy draining at times.

    I'm loving those sections from the Ellie sequel!

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  4. Happy Birthday to your little guy :)

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  5. Happy Birthday Connor! Enjoy being three!!
    It depends on my mood sometimes on whether or not I like editing. But I do like the feeling you get when your finished!
    Thanks for the post!

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  6. Luckily, I haven't gotten to the micro-edits yet. It seems rather frustrating, but it'll be a relief to have the macro-edits done, so that'll be good. I feel that they'd be rather satisfying, but I've never been through them. I'll let you know when I get there.
    Also, Connor is so cute, Stephanie. Your kids, seriously. Every time.

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  7. Thanks, guys! He's a baseball boy, so he's pretty sure the Home Run Derby on TV was scheduled just for him :)

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    Replies
    1. This is so funny...one of the families I know has a little boy who turned three yesterday, too. :D

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  8. Usually I find myself hating my novel(s) when I do a micro edit. The first time I ever edited, it was a disaster. I thought it was going to be like writing (how wrong was I...Hahaha!). I've grown to enjoy editing (even though I have urges to rip up my manuscript and throw it away for good...):D
    By the way, my parents gave me your Go Teen Writers book for my birthday and I absolutely love it!! It's a great help! Thanks!

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Ada! It was really fun to put together.

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  9. For me, Micro Edits are like, "Hey, time to fry my brain time!" I'm in the middle of a total rehaul right now...no sentence is left unturned. It's been taking me hours to finish a chapter. So now I feel better! :)

    AWWWWW! CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

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  10. Okay, first off: Connor is so so so CUTE. I was going to write the whole thing in caps, but decided I didn't want to look like a screaming freak. But seriously, he is seriously adorable. And oh dear I did not even mean to use seriously twice right then.
    And second, and I shall write this in caps: I CANNOT WAIT FOR ELLIE #2!!! I wrote that so very unprofessionally and I am so pumped.
    And thirdly, you edit every line? I can see that my story shall take longer than the last to edit. Your second versions above were fantastically marvalistic and like I said I cannot wait to read the book. I'm reading Go Teen Writers and just wanted to say thanks, Steph and Jill -- I've picked up quite a few things I hadn't even considered to do with editing. Thanks!

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  11. I'm currently doing a first/ second edit on my story (it's my first time seriously editing something, so the macro/micro got a bit blended together). Is it normal to feel like you're finding more flaws with your story than you originally thought? I think my story is improving, it just seems like I keep finding more holes- some of them large. They aren't unfixable, it seems like. Any suggestions?
    Thanks for the awesome editing posts! I've been reading through them, and they have really helped my writing.

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  12. Extremely helpful post! I haven't done as much editing as writing in the past and it's quite interesting to know about how long it takes you to do a micro-edit and what you look for!

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