Okay, you’ve let your manuscript stew in its own juices. Yeah, it sounds nasty but it’s not, really.
*Photo courtesy of auttiedot from morguefile.com
Now you’re about ready to start carving up your tasty hunk of meat. But before you start, there are a few things you need to know and a few things you need to do.
*Photo courtesy of vilhelm from morguefile.com
What You Need To Know
What you need to know is you’re not going to be able to sit and edit an entire manuscript in one sitting, just like you can’t write one in one sitting. Unless you have super-powers. And if you do, please tell me where I can get some of that.
No, editing is best taken in small bites, and in rounds. If you try to do it all in one super-powered burst, you’re going to miss things. Important things. Staring at a computer screen at the same story will, at the very least, cause small hemorrhages of the brain, eyeball malfunction, and intense crabbiness. My advice is to work on a ‘script for no more than 90 minutes at a time, and then do something else for at least 30 minutes. Like, pee, feed the cat, check your mailbox, walk around, FEED YOURSELF. Give yourself a break.
Typically, I’ll look at a manuscript and edit in “rounds”. Meaning, the first round will usually address glaring plot issues (which we will cover next week). You have to fix those before you get into the finer details. This might take more than one round, depending on the issues you run across. You’ll look hard and long at the plot to make sure everything hangs together and makes sense. At the same time, or in a separate round, you’ll pay attention to characterization and the story arc.
Then, and only then, you’ll move into the round of line editing. This is where you go over each and every word, each and every sentence, and evaluate your dialog, narrative flow, and the combination of action and exposition.
At this point you might want to pull out all of your hair. That’s why it’s important to take breaks, and determine the best time of day for you to be most productive. Some people edit first thing in the morning; some do better as night owls. It really just depends on what works for you. For instance, I’m not much of a morning person as far as editing goes. Most of my editing is done in the afternoon and late at night. Because it’s my job and I work for myself, I can squidge my schedule around deadlines, appointments, and other extra-curricular activities as needed. Occasionally I’ll edit first thing in the morning, but only after the coffee IV is set up.
*Photo courtesy of mensatic from morguefile.com
The other thing you need to know is editing is as much of an art form as writing. No two writers ever do it the same, and that’s okay. Find your own personal groove, just like you did when you were writing. If things start to blur, you know it’s time to walk away for a bit. This is normal. Well, as “normal” as it gets.
What You Need To Do To Prepare
I work mainly in Word with the Track Changes option. But, I also have handy a pen and a yellow legal pad for notes to myself or the author. Ideas which occur to me, things to double-check, and sometimes a reminder to get up and walk around lest all my blood pool in my ass.
Another valuable tool is a style sheet. A style sheet is usually used by copy editors, but for writers editing their own work or for content editors, a style sheet rocks. This is where you note the spelling of names, locations, and other details. This saves you the time of running back through the manuscript to figure out if you spelled a secondary character’s name as “Ann” or “Anne” when she rears her head in Chapter 22 after being introduced in Chapter 4. This keeps your ‘script consistent.
Keep a thesaurus handy, whether it’s online or in paper form. I use both. I’m actually a fan of Word Web (no relation), a free app you can download on your computer. It comes in mighty handy, especially when you’re reaching for that one word you know but can’t quite grasp. You know the one. Yeah. That one.
If you get lost in the word forest, a timer can help bring you back to reality. My bladder makes sure I’m not sitting too long, but those with younger bladders might benefit from a Free Alarm Clock. It’s better than wetting your seat. Don’t ask me how I know this, either.
Optional is a steady stream of caffeine, a hammer, and a sharp implement.
On second thought, never mind the hammer or sharp implement. Some temptations are better left out of reach.
Next week, we start on plot. Woohoo!