Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 25: The Macro Edit

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Welcome to week twenty-five of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I finished my first draft of THIRST a few weeks ago. The book needs a major rewrite, which I don't have time to work on right now. I hope you all were able to see how messy my first draft ended up being and how much work I still have to do. Click here to visit the chapter archives, if you want to read it.



Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:

A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.

Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.

Week thirteen: how to write a scene.

Week fourteen: Where to start.

Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes 
Week seventeen: Write Fast and Free
Week eighteen: Dialogue and Thought
Week nineteen: Character and Author Voice
Week twenty: Action
Week twenty-one: Description
Week twenty-two: Exposition
Week twenty-three: Pacing
Week twenty-four: Beginnings and Endings of Scenes and Chapters

The In-Between

One of my favorite quotes is from author Michael Crichton. “Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

That’s so true.

Now that you've finished your first draft, you'll need to rewrite that book!

But first, you really should take a rest.

You've been slaving away over this book. You are so close to it right now. Too close. Take a couple days (or maybe even weeks) to rest your mind, read a craft book, or work on something else before you dive in to the edits. The time and space will make you sharper when you come back.

Still not convinced to take a break? Check out Stephanie's post called Six Reasons to Take Six Weeks Off From Your First Draft. It's really good advice.

Today's Topic: The Macro Edit

Once you've taken a break and are ready to edit, you will first need to do a macro edit. This is the BIG edit. The overall edit. You'll be looking at plot, characters, storyworld, and theme to try and smooth everything out. It will still be rough. You're trying to get a consistent draft with all the parts in place. The writing might still be messy and sub-par, but you can fix that in the micro edit.

Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant explain the writing process as such:

1) Write it. (Write the rough/first draft.)
2) Write what you mean. (Take your manuscript through the macro edit.)
3) Write it well. (Take your manuscript through the micro edit.)

You've completed step one. Now you're on step two. You know so much more about your story now. You know where the holes are. You know what needs to be fixed. You know if you have too many characters or not enough. It's time to go in and make this story say what you meant to say. Add description. Get all your facts in order. Put the right characters in the right place. Make sure the characters are saying things they'd actually say. Add those missing plot threads. Add scenes that need to be added. Delete scenes that were unnecessary. Get your character quirks and eye colors right.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can use the Go Teen Writers Self-Editing Checklist to help you. 

Here is how I tackle the macro edit:

1. I take a break
I take my time off. It might be a week or two. It might be several months. It might only be a few days. No matter what, I need time away from the manuscript to rest my mind.

2. I read the book carefully
I read the book straight through as quickly as I can. I ask myself about the concept of the book. Is it unique? Is it universal? Can people relate to the story? I look at my protagonist. Is he likeable or relatable? Can readers identify with him? Learn from him? Follow him? Root for him? What about the plot? Are the stakes big enough? Are they primal? How does my hero interact with the plot? Does my hero have a goal? Does he work to solve the story problem himself without secondary characters sweeping in to save the day?

As I read, I make a scene list so that I can see the entire book in two-three pages. This helps me see any big plot holes. I also make a list of problems to fix. This gives me a checklist to work from and helps me not worry that I'll leave out something important.

3. I rank the list of problems 
I rank my list of problems from biggest to smallest.

4. I fix the big stuff first 
It might seem daunting to start with the biggest problems, but since they are so big, it is a relief to fix them first. That way, things get easier as time goes on. I specifically look for:

-Plot holes
-Main character problems: Internal and external motivations, growth arc, likability.
-If I have a sagging middle
-Whether or not my dark moment works
-Do I have a powerful climax?
-Do I have a great ending?
-Are there inconsistencies in the story?
-Are my timelines working? Do I need to make a calendar to check my dates?
-Do I have an imbalance of characters? Do I need to add, cut, or combine characters?
-Do I have some research to do? This often happens if I have a cop scene or medical scene and I just made things up for the first draft. Now I have to check my facts with a professional. (Always check your facts!)

5. I read the book again for smaller stuff
Once I feel like my draft is mostly consistent, then I go in to look at the smaller stuff. 

-Description: I add description where I had none. This could be descriptions of settings, characters, action, magic, adding the five senses, all that good stuff.
-Secondary characterization: I look for description, tags, voice, quirks, etc. I want to make sure each character stands out and is memorable.
-Subplots: Are they consistent? Do I need to go back and plant clues here and there?
-Magic: Is it consistent? Is it believable?
-Storyworld: Is anything confusing? Do I need to find places to explain more or delete where I've explained too much?
-How is my pacing?
-I look for places I can go in and add references to theme or symbolism.

6. Send it off!
If I have time, I send it off to a few beta readers to see what they think. If I don't have time, I send it to my editor, who will give me a macro edit and ask for another rewrite. This is a good thing, especially if I didn't have a chance to give the story to beta readers. I want opinions. I want to know what's working and what needs work.

More posts to help you

Assignment time

I realize many of you won't be ready for a macro-edit right now, so I'd like you to think about some things you know aren't working in your story. For me with THIRST, I have several problems. I've mentioned the book might need to be divided into two. My main character has a love interest my readers hate, so that isn't working. There is no antagonist until halfway through the story. I forgot to remove trackers from my characters before they escaped into the woods at the end of the book. I also forgot the doctor they kidnapped to remove these trackers. He was supposed to stay in the compound. He just sort of vanished. So, lots to fix.

How about you? Any ideas of what you will need to work on? Share in the comments.


  1. I'm almost to step two in this process, and I have never gotten far enough in my writing to edit before, so this post will be extremely useful. Thanks so much for the post!

    1. Yay! Congrats on making it that far. Keep at it!

  2. I realized last week that while I was spending so much time and energy trying to get my characters to the ending I needed while also having it be believable, that I forgot to make sure they had a way OUT of the climax. I ended up "finishing" it and plan to wait a few weeks before I try to fix it.

    1. Oh, man. I can totally relate. Good plan on waiting a few weeks to fix it. You'll dive in much more enthusiastically when rested.

  3. Do you take any break between the macro and micro editing? Or do you just dive in? I'm just finishing my third draft. I think I mostly have all the macro edits out of the way, and I was just wondering if I should take a break next. I suppose it depends on the person?

    1. I'm on my third draft too, Sananora. I'm taking a bit of a break before doing any more editing, mostly because my book is in the hands of my beta readers at the moment. But after that, I'll go straight back to editing it.

      This was a great post, Jill! I can't wait until it's time to send our stories into you guys (any idea when that time will be? I just want to make sure I don't miss it - as I'm incredibly forgetful XD).

    2. I think all we've been told so far is that August 31 is the due date for the first chapter and synopsis. Other than that, I don't know any more details. Hopefully we'll be given them soon.

    3. We're working on hammering out details now. Wednesday, September 14th is when we'll open up the contest.

    4. Okay. Thanks, Mrs. Morrill!

    5. Sananora, I do sometimes take a break if I can and if I need one. Trust your instincts. It does depend on the person. If you're totally into the project and aren't feeling overwhelmed, keep on going.

    6. Yes, sorry about the change of date for the contest, you guys. Life this summer was crazy and I got behind. Contest details will be posted tomorrow, Sept 1, 2016. Thanks for your patience! :-)

  4. I'm about halfway through my macro/micro edit. I kind of do both at once. As soon as I'm sure this scene belongs in the plot (and in THIS PART of the plot), I micro edit before even going on to the next scene.
    It's so satisfying to look back at a scene that is "practically perfect in every way". I can't wait until I have at least one book that's "practically perfect".

    1. Congrats on reaching this point! That's fabulous. And, yes. It's so much fun to see the book come together. Creating is a joy.

  5. On a side note, Mrs. Williamson, have you heard of Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision? If so, what is your opinion of that revision process?

    1. I hadn't heard of it, but I Googled it. I could never do this. I have a system that works for me and I'll stick with that. Holly Lisle has written over 30 books and she will have developed a system that works good enough for her but newer writers will really struggle with it. I'd say wait until you've written and revised a few books before trying something that intense. It might discourage you. And you just won't have the eye to know what you're looking for yet, imo. Speed is not a friend when you're learning. Take your time and respect your dream enough to train yourself. (My two cents.)
      Now it is good to find what works best for you and to learn the best ways to use your time wisely. If you catch yourself wasting time, you’d benefit from trying to troubleshoot that and looking for ways to be more productive.
      Still, no one could ever convince me that only two passes through a manuscript would produce my best work. Maybe if I'm writing a book six in a series, or something. But for a new book set in a new world, no way. I need those extra passes through to hone all those character and storyworld details. One pass is far too few to catch everything I want to catch. I pride myself on doing the best I can and one edit would never produce my best. Plus, you've heard me say it before, but this quote has been proven true time and again, and I live by it:

      “Books aren't written - they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.”
      ― Michael Crichton

      If you don't who Michael Crichton was, check out his list of books below. Almost everything he wrote was made into a successful movie.

  6. I'm about to start editing my Camp novel. xP I need all the editing help I can get! :-P

    1. Faith Song? What a beautiful name! I'm tempted to steal it for my novel. ;)

    2. Thanks. It would be more awesome if I hadn't chosen it. xP My real name is actually not quite as awesome, so I used my middle name (Faith) and part of the meaning of my first name (Song), to make a pseudonym for online and writing. xP

      Okay, so that was a bit of a ramble. xP Feel free to use the name if you want, Olivia. xD

    3. That's creative. :) I would never have thought to put the middle name first. I can understand the usefulness of a pseudonym for online (the reason I only use my first name), but for writing as well? I suppose it could depend on the size of a publication. Thanks for giving me permission to use the name. I probably won't, considering Faith Song is too angelic for most of my female characters (spicy gals, they are), but I might find use of it someday. :) Thanks!

    4. Whoo hoo for edits, Faith. You can do it!