Thursday, April 15, 2010

I love editing Part One

When the "creating" part of writing is going well - the story's flowing, the dialogue's snapping, and ideas are hitting faster than you can type - there's nothing quite like it. Want to know how many days I have like that during my first draft? Oh, maybe two or three. Maybe.

In general, the part of love most is editing. My friend Sally Bradley, who runs Bradley Writing and Editing services, says she likes to think of her current manuscript as a fixer upper she's just bought. It's got potential, but right now it's in rough shape.

There's nothing wrong with your manuscript being in rough shape. That's why we call them works-in-progress. Or WIPs. They aren't published novels, and there's nothing wrong with it not reading like one yet.

In the past, when I've reached the second draft, I've tended to focus on both the big stuff - how's my plot? are my characters good? is this the right pace? - alongside all the small stuff. So while I'm asking those big questions, I'm usually asking little ones too. To comma or not to comma? Is this line enough of a zinger? Is this the right word for my POV character to use?

After taking a class from Sally on Saturday, I've discovered that this is a bad way to do it.

I'm currently in the first draft of my WIP. When I'm done, thanks to Sally, I feel like I'll have a better idea for how to gut this baby and polish her up. And I'll start with the gutting. Here's a few questions Sally suggested you start with as you read through your first draft for the first time:

1. How are your plot and characters? Is your plot believable? Have you clearly defined your characters' goals, motivations, and conflict? (Sometimes referred to as GMC, in case you've seen that elsewhere.) Is there enough conflict? Is life hard for your characters, or are they getting what they want too easily?

2. Do you use POV (point of view) correctly? (We haven't really talked about proper POV on here, have we? We'll have to discuss that.)

3. Does your opening work? We talked about openings a couple months ago. Make sure it's appropriate to the rest of the story, and that it's gripping enough to hook your reader.

4. Have you created a good stage for your readers? Are you giving too many details? Too few?

5. How's the pace? Are we zipping from scene to scene to fast, or are you sitting for far too long in scenes?

Sally said she often has clients who want her to do a major overhaul on their manuscripts and give it a nice finish. She compared this to painting a room in a house, then ripping out the sheetrock.

Try looking for those big things first, then putting on the finishing touches later.


  1. Yep, get your big stuff in order and then leave the comma-llamas to me. ;-)

  2. Thanks to you, I'm getting so much better!

  3. Thanks for this post! I'm currently editing my first draft so I really needed these tips right now. I love your blog, Stephanie! Thanks for aiming it towards teenagers. :)


  4. Tessa, congrats on finishing your first draft! What a huge step to have out of the way.

    And I'm so glad you enjoy the blog! I enjoy writing for it :)

  5. Hey Steph,
    Sorry I haven't been reading and commenting lately, we were away for a week. But I'm back now, and I have to catch up on your posts :D

    Thanks for this one, btw. Really helpful!!