Since I am currently editing one of my books, I thought it would be useful to start chronicling my process. So here goes Part 1: Preparing for Editing!
The journey begins with a first draft, whether written during NaNoWriMo or written in my free time. Either way I generally have 50,000-80,000 words of a novel to work with. Before I do any actual editing, there are several steps I must take.
1. Divide My Book into Chapters (if it is not already in chapter form) and Make a Chapter List
- I usually aim for 1,000-5,000 for YA urban fantasy and 4,000-8,000 for YA high/epic fantasy.
- If I am using multiple viewpoints, I include the character(s) name of POV at the start on the chapter list.
- For the chapter list, I open my word program and type out the numbers for the chapters and then write a one scentence summary of the most important events in the chapter. For instance, if I had written Fangirl, I would make the first one say “Chapter 1: Cath begins dorm life and meets the strange Levi”
- The chapter list is useful for quickly referencing where in your novel things happen and gives you a good idea of what your book looks like at a glance. I normally print mine out so that I can have it out when I’m typing edits on the computer.
2. Construct the Plotline
- I may have made something similar to this in the planning stages, but I do not use the same thing. This plotline is about summarizing what you’ve written, that is, what is currently in your novel. It does not include what happens before the story or events that take place away from your character. I sometimes report on them hearing about other events though, especially if they have a big reaction to those events or they set off another chain of important events.
- For me, the plotline is a combination of a timeline and summary of events. I draw a straight horizontal line across a sheet of (landscape oriented) paper near the top and draw a dot along the line for each day of action (meaning I only make dots for the days where something I have written takes place). I do not always have exact dates. Oftentimes it’s just a general time of the year.
- Under each dot, I write in bullet form the important events that are written out in the novel (or I write about events characters heard about, but I do not write about other events going on in the background; only what is on the page).
- In a different color pen, I mark all of the chapter divides on the plotline.
- Then I spread out my plotline, usually on my wall or across the floor, and I start looking at the flow of the story. Do I see an area that needs more? Is there something that needs to be cut? Is something confusing or highly improbable? I find all of the problems and note them in a “to-do list.”
3. Writing the To-Do List
- As I said in the last bullet point, this is where you identify the most obvious problems in your story. I use a notebook to write them down, color coding each item. (Personally, I use four categories: scenes to rewrite, scenes to delete, scenes to add, and inconsistencies/details to fix.)
- A second thing to note, a scene does not mean a chapter. It can mean a chapter, but most of the time for me it doesn’t. A scene usually ranges from three paragraphs to a few pages, though it can stretch into many more pages depending on your story.
- If your plotline does not refresh your memory enough, then you can skim through your story. I do not do a full read through at this point. That comes after the first round of edits.
4. Making Scene Edit Cards
- This is an extra step that isn’t necessary, but I find it helps me organize better for the actual editing part. In this step, I take all the scenes to rewrite and the scenes to add from the to-do list and write out a basic description of them on a note card.
- The card usually looks like this:
- These note cards will then be used as a guide for the actual editing stage where I write or revise scenes. It can also be useful to include information about what the scene adds to the story, such as “scene leads to MC discovering their heart’s desire.”
At this point, I am usually ready to delve in and do some actual editing. I go through the to-do list and check off things as I go. Now, another thing to note, I do not use any online software, aside from Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, to organize my ideas. If you are a scrivener user, then you may prefer to do your note cards in the program. Do whatever works for you. Personally, I feel more accomplishment when I have the physical note card in my hand, can say “well, this one’s done,” and can place it in the finished pile.
Next Up: Part 2: Beginning the Editing