Writing the first draft is easy. Or at least, relatively so. No matter what it took to get here, you now have a manuscript full of your deathless prose, words you slaved over, pulled from the depths of your heart, etc., etc. Now it’s time to rip all those lovely words into little pieces, ruthlessly slicing, dicing, and even cutting completely what are practically your children.
Yeah, editing is hard. At least for me. Some people find it easy. I don’t know if I’m just weird, or if they’re masochistic. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult for me to change a first draft into a polished manuscript ready for publication. Really difficult. In fact, often my MO is to hide the draft somewhere for six months or so, until my writing style is so different I rewrite most of it anyway. Then the cycle resumes.
However, I’m trying to survive the craziness of editing by seeking advice in – where else? – books. I’ll share some of the most helpful suggestions here:
In Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem (a guide to NaNoWriMo), he suggests the following approach to understanding your story’s plot arc. Divide each chapter into its component scenes and create an index card for each scene, detailing the basic action, characters involved, and contribution to the plot. Then you can set them in a line and actually see your story play out. Even better, you can rearrange, take out, or add in scenes and see how it affects the book as a whole.
I’ve seen this multiple places – if it doesn’t advance the story, cut it. That can be hard – you might have a character or scene you really like, but it’s just pointless. If so, save it – maybe you can use it somewhere else.
Finally, (I can’t remember where I read this) length is not the issue. It was in NaNo, but now it’s quality over quantity. It’s better to have a short, good book than a long book full of meaningless words.
I probably don’t sound too enthused about all of this, because honestly, editing is my nightmare. But it’s something you have to get through, so I’d better post this and get back to the grind.