A while back I was having a dry week and asked for some ideas for blog posts. Kelly sent one to my Facebook page about editing or how much editing is enough editing? Not a week later, there were two excellent posts on the subject of editing by Jessica Faust (Good Enough is Never Enough) at Bookends and by Jodi Meadows (I’ll Show You Why You’re So Much More Than Good Enough).
I can’t really improve on either of these posts; however, I can tell you how I intend to edit my novel and when I will feel I have edited enough.
When I was at a conference back in April, I had the opportunity to hear Sharyn McCrumb speak to the North Carolina Writers’ Network. I’m paraphrasing very loosely here, but in essence, she said that you should become a writer if you loved writing your high school English papers. She is absolutely right, because while the catharsis of writing the first draft is what appeals to many writers, it is the editing process that separates the wheat from the chaff.
I am currently working through my middle draft, editing and rewriting my final chapters to bring them in line with the changes I’ve made in the first half of the book. As I write each chapter, I submit it to my OWW critique group and they suggest either overall edits to clarify the story or line-edits. When I have all my critiques in, I make the necessary changes.
I have gone to the expense of having my first chapter professionally critiqued using the N.C. Writers’ Network critiquing service. Hopefully, this critique will show me the weak areas in my writing. While I don’t have the results of that critique yet, I do intend to use the comments to evaluate the rest of my manuscript for any repetitive errors I’ve made.
When I’ve finished this middle draft, I will go through the entire book two more times. The first time I will read for edits, clarifying or cutting words. The second time, I will read for character and plot.
I have asked three people if they would serve as what I call my “cold readers.” Two of these people have never seen the manuscript before and will be reading it as if they purchased it at the bookstore. I have a list of questions that I’d like for them to use in evaluating the manuscript.
I’ll want to know for example: Are the characters and their reactions to the circumstances and events believable? Does the novel move smoothly from one event to another to build the tension toward the climax? Once the climax has been achieved, does the catharsis come too soon or not soon enough? Were there any questions in the readers’ minds that were not answered in the book? I’m sure I’ll think of more, but all I really want is a general overview of the novel.
Of course, it will take my readers some time to read the whole novel from beginning to end, and this will give me some much needed time away from the manuscript. While they’re reading, I’m going to start writing the second novel in the series. When I have all the results in from my cold readers, I’m going to evaluate and make changes based on their comments.
Finally, I will go through the novel one last time for a fine line-edit. I will look at every paragraph to make sure there is a clear transition from one paragraph to the next. I will look at every sentence to make certain that sentence is grammatically correct. Then and only then will I feel that my novel is ready for the query process.
Will all this editing suck the life out of my “voice” and my characters? I don’t think so. I don’t believe you can over-edit a novel, and I’ve certainly read quite a few books that have been under-edited.
I’ve included a few links below to some great online articles about editing. Meanwhile, you tell me: when will you feel that the editing process is complete on your novel?
All Good Writing is Rewriting by Peder Hill
Editing Made Easy by Lee Masterson
Eight Ways to Tighten Your Prose by Michele R. Bardsley
copyright 2009 Teresa Frohock