Write, Edit, Write, Repeat…

Clickety-click clickety-click clickety-click…

“Daddy!”

“What is it, Princess?”

“I want to watch a movie in the new minivan!”

What a strange concept. A new twist on drive-in movies?

Why did I ever agree to that feature? Sigh…

Princess Erika

With much chagrin and very little humor, I have entered the minivan world for the first time in my forty-seven years of life. Worse yet, I am selling my sports car, a beautiful 1987 BMW L6. I thought when you got near fifty, you did it the other way around? No wonder I am always so confused.

The truth is I have always loved vans almost as much as I love my sports car. In fact, I have owned two VW Camper vans over the last ten years, so technically you might call them a minivan. I called them campers, but my students called them creeper vans. Go figure!

My wife is nearing the end of this round of chemo, and we are hopeful life may return to normal in the not too distant future. I have released another Onyalum Wars blog and wrote two chapters in the two novels I am currently working on. Don’t ask why there are two, I am still trying to figure it out myself! I am also scheduled to compete in the first ever Rocky Mountain Book Signing Competition in September, so authorship moves forward. Okay, its me and two of my writing group buds, but hey, it is a competition!

All of this means it is time to get back on that writing horse and make some progress. For me, the writing is the best part of the experience. It is the ultimate freedom, if you write fiction, and it is still the best catharsis next to my new hobby, stargazing. However, we all know this is only part of the process, and like washing clothes is to fashion, there is dirty work that must be done.

Editing. Yes, the seven letter word that should be four. Wait, Edit is a four letter word? Anyway, we all shun it, despise it, avoid it, and worse, ignore it, but it is an author’s dirty little secret that cannot be avoided. I know, many of you are like, ‘Well, I write the novel and then go back to edit it, but it is so distasteful, I have a hard time completing it.’ Not surprising when you wait so long to perform your professional duty. I can hear your old English teacher rolling in her grave right now! Let’s hope she is not dead.

What did all those old English teachers tell us over and over again? Edit your work! Yeah, I am right there with you, but I have devised a way to make this process less burdensome and more productive so that when you finish writing, you’ll already have a nearly completed manuscript. After that, it’s on to proof-reading and you are done!

Oversimplifying? Maybe, but my process does work and breaks that monstrous editing beast into bite size chunks. Actually, I might blow chunks from that metaphor. Yuck! Better yet, it can also improve your writing process, as well. And if you call in the next five minutes, we’ll also send you the ‘get published in five minutes’ video for free!

Tongue-in-cheek aside, this process can make you far more productive while helping you improve your writing along the way. By the end, you barely need to edit anything as your writing quickly improves. Okay, enough of the upsell, here is the process.

When I write, I like to think in terms of chapters. After all, they are nice logical blocks of writing. Though many will take weeks to complete, they are a milestone I work towards. So, when I complete a chapter, I edit that chapter before starting the next one. I only do a single pass edit, very manageable for a chapter. At most, it usually takes about thirty minutes to edit a chapter, depending on the number of pages.

This is a small price for the benefit you will get out of it. First, a little time usually passes between when I complete a chapter and when I start a new one. Because of this, the storyline has lapsed slightly in my mind from the previous chapter. Editing that previous chapter right before I start the new one adds transitional consistency between the chapters, making the story more cohesive.

In addition to this consistency in your writing, by doing an editing pass before you start writing seems to make my newer writing a little better. The process of wordsmithing and sentence restructuring on the old work carries over into the new work, thus producing a slightly higher level of writing than I might have had otherwise. I realize this is a bit subjective, but I really do believe this effect does exist.

Okay, I continue this process for each chapter as I write the novel. But wait, there is more! Since I am part of a writing group, I post each chapter on our group blog site for the other members to read and comment on. Because of this, I always edit that chapter one more time before hitting the post button on the blog site. This go round, it takes even less time since I have already edited it one time before.

I realize that for some of you, this seems excessive, but trust me when I say you will be glad you did this editing while you go rather than waiting until the end. Nasty grammar and spelling is easily caught, and the story seems to flow more readily without those pesky consistency problems that can creep into even the best writer’s work. Again, think of it as your weekly laundry that must be done despite how distasteful it is. Yeah, some of you may have guessed, I am doing my laundry as I write:)

Now, assuming you bought into this process, there is more yet to do. You see, after I have written about half the book, I want to go back through all that work and get the big picture of the novel so far. This means I edit from the beginning to the halfway point one time before I continue. This will catch more of the those consistency errors and also give you an ‘enjoyment’ measurement. After all, if you don’t like what you are reading, why will your readers? Look for slow parts that don’t add to the story as part of this pass, timing is important!

Finally, when you have finished the last page, go back through the last chapter before going back through the entire manuscript. This is your final edit pass before you begin the proof-reading process that is also an important part of your writing. Since you have been editing as you go, this final edit will go quickly, thus saving you from that massive anxiety facing those who waited until the end before editing.

Let’s summarize the process assuming we are writing a ten chapter novel (big chapters):

  • Write chap 1 – Edit chap 1 – Edit chap 1 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 2 – Edit chap 2 – Edit chap 2 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 3 – Edit chap 3 – Edit chap 3 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 4 – Edit chap 4 – Edit chap 4 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 5 – Edit chap 5 – Edit chap 5 – Post to blog
  • Edit whole manuscript
  • Write chap 6 – Edit chap 6 – Edit chap 6 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 7 – Edit chap 7 – Edit chap 7 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 8 – Edit chap 8 – Edit chap 8 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 9 – Edit chap 9 – Edit chap 9 – Post to blog
  • Write chap 10 – Edit chap 10 – Edit chap 10 – Post to blog
  • Edit whole manuscript

I would characterize this as the minimum level of editing that you should shoot for while writing the novel. If your writing group provides feedback on errors, then you may choose to go back and fix those, doing another edit pass to boot. This is your choice, but either way you have taken that editing beast and cut it down to size while improving your writing.

It is a win-win, but requires discipline on your part. So, how do your integrate this into your writing process? Easy, you add it to your task list in Excel that you already created to manage your Appointment To Write! By placing it in this list, you will have a regular reminder that you should edit after you have checked off that ‘Write chapter 1’ item in your list.

Of course, I haven’t told you what to edit or what to do when you proof read the manuscript, but hey, those are food for future posts, so come back again for more sage advice. In the meantime, keep your Appointment To Write faithfully, and don’t forget to edit that laundry … I mean writing.

Now, where is that Cinderella movie again? Hey, wait a minute, is this a new alternative to the afternoon nap? Uhmm, probably not. Being a parent is too much work! Sigh …

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: