I’ve talked before about the importance of finding the method of drafting that works best for me and how everyone will ultimately have their own unique approach. Recent events have me wondering why editing should be any different?
After all, editing is more than fixing, removing, or even adding words the same as drafting is about more than spewing them. We debate pantsing, plotting, and the gray area between. We disagree about whether we should fix issues as we go along. Some draft fast and others slow.
What about editing?
There are countless books and posts about what editing entails, but I’m not here to talk about that. What I will do is share an approach I’m experimenting with to keep my eyes fresh (this is not a substitute for letting a WIP sit).
I currently have seven novels worth my time to revise. Five of them have been edited once, another twice, and the oldest several times. I don’t obsess over the number of times I revise. The novel is done when it’s done. I don’t want to pressure myself to do more or less than what it needs because I deemed a certain number of edits to be the correct one.
The one part of editing I have extensive experience with is the initial edit, which, for me, is about removing huge chunks or adding missing scenes. There’s little fine tuning (not unless I see a glaring problem). It doesn’t take a lot of thought and even while I’m drafting I often know much of what needs to go or be added. During my initial edit I don’t want to labor over the little things because I know there’s still much that might be cut.
I recently returned to Riparia’s Bk1, the book I’ve gone through several times. I’m far enough along in the process with it that I am agonizing over word choice and polishing passages. The idea of going through 130K fixing one issue and then later going all the way back through again wasn’t appealing. At certain stages that’s the right approach, but I want to mix up my methods a bit.
I’ve done detailed editing on many short stories, but they were all 5K or shorter. One of the reasons I love short stories is because editing doesn’t feel like such a daunting task.
That sparked an idea.
What if I looked at the novel (structure and arcs aside) as a series of short stories?
In other words, working on the book in blocks. The blocks aren’t based on a set word count, but, instead, portions of the book bigger than a chapter that represent a sequence of closely related events (yes this is subjective).
The first block was easy enough to identify: the story’s opening chapters. Combined, that block was just under 20K long (Scrivener makes this easier and helped inspire the idea). I went through it addressing set issues and then went back through reading aloud and fixing more.
The idea of tackling those five chapters didn’t seem so daunting and it saves my voice when I don’t have to read aloud 130K all at once. After reading those chapters aloud I was then able to return to my silent approach for the next chapter sequence, thus avoiding falling into a rut.
The second block now is about 16K. Once through it silently, I’ll read it aloud. So far, I’m loving the approach. Who knows, I may hate it later, but I’m optimistic. I wouldn’t do this early in the editing process, but at this point it’s working great (so far) and is a nice change. I’m a believer in approaches that help avoid any process becoming stale.
What’s important here is that, like with drafting, I’m experimenting with my process. The same work must be done regardless, but finding an approach that works better for me is key and that means keeping my eyes fresh. One lesson learned from drafting is that I have a basic approach, but other elements often change with each book.
I like that this didn’t require any extra work to setup. I chose the chapters and set to work. If nothing else, this is another option, another tool in my editing toolbox (like changing or enlarging fonts). We draft once, but we edit multiple times, so not wasting our efforts is vital. At least for now, this approach is helping with me with that.