The 7 Stages of Editing I have used from First to Final Draft

Poker-sm-228-7hI started writing ‘From Here to Nashville’, my debut romance novel in April 2013. By the end of October that year, I had a first draft which was over 100,000 words. As this is my first novel, I really had no idea how to go about the next stage so I turned to the internet to help me. Naturally, there was a whole ton of information and advice out there so I had to sift through it and work out what was right for me. I thought then that it might be useful, as much for myself as anyone else, to summarise the stages that I have gone through with this first novel in the hope that I will be better at it next time round!

1. Reading aloud

It is generally accepted that this is a good first step to take after writing that messy first draft without having stopped to edit along the way. This was the approach I had taken with this first novel and it’s also what I did with my second which was written during NaNoWriMo 2013 when I discovered that there is simply no time to stop and edit. For this process, I printed the story out. When I came to reading my story out loud, I realised that this is not something you can do quickly and the very act of slowing down meant that I found lots of little mistakes and was easily able to highlight them for editing later. This included the repetitive use of some words and I also found, for example, that I repeated characters’ names too much so I deleted quite a few of these. I noticed that I hadn’t been consistent with my writing of numbers, dates and times so I decided on a style and then I stuck to it. I found some obvious plot-holes that would need correcting later and I was able to ponder the structure of the story and think about whether it needed tweaking.

2. Replacing Passive sentences with Active sentences – E-Prime

I first wrote about this on my blog in May this year and you can read the full post here. In summary, this involves finding and replacing the verb ‘to be’ with a more active verb in your writing. The example I gave in the article still holds good, I think but here’s another one for you:

Before – ‘We were strolling along the promenade…’

After – ‘We strolled along the promenade…’

You won’t be able to do this for every instance but when you can do it, you will notice that it definitely improves your writing.

3. Over-used words

As I use Scrivener, it was really easy for me to see which words I was over-using using the ‘Text Statistics’ function which is an option under the tab ‘Project.’ I have taken a screenshot today of the most used words in my manuscript and I can still see that ‘I’ is at the top, as it was in May! I have managed to reduce the number of times I use it though 🙂

Screenshot 2014-09-08 09.47.08

As you can see, these are all every day words and I feel pretty happy that I have managed to eradicate over-use of most of them. Words like ‘that’ are often put in unnecessarily and can bump up your word count no end. There are lots of articles about these over-used or filler words and you really should have a look at eliminating these during the editing process. Here are just a few things to look out for:

  • over-use of adverbs.
  • using clichés. Work out what you’re trying to say and then write it differently.
  • using ‘began to’ or ‘started to’ or ‘decided to.’
  • using ‘seemed to.’
  • using ‘very’, ‘really’ or ‘just.’

4. Showing not Telling

Once my manuscript came back from the RNA, this was the first big thing I had to tackle. This was to be expected as it was my first novel so I didn’t beat myself up about it too much. Half the battle is in working out when you should show and when telling will be alright. Once again, I wrote a blog post about it here and there are also lots of articles written about it which you may or may not find helpful! The best one I found is listed in my blog post and remains the one I found the most useful.

5. Cutting Scenes that are not relevant to the story

This speaks for itself and has been painstaking because I have found it difficult to be sure whether every one is relevant or not. Sometimes it was very clear and I was able to delete without any worries but at other times, it was hard. I suspect that this comes with practice. If you write a good outline for your story and keep to it pretty much through the first draft, then hopefully, the redundant scenes will be fewer at the end. I’ll have to let you know on that one next time 😉 For now though, only you can know what you think is relevant or otherwise to your story but the general advice is that a scene is not relevant if it doesn’t move the story forward.

6. Killing your Darlings!

We’ve all heard this phrase, I’m sure but I hadn’t really absorbed it until I was advised that I had too many minor characters in my story. When I thought about it, I had to agree and I realised that this would mean quite a change to the plot of the story. Once again, it has been hard to make these changes at this stage but I know it has helped my story to improve and that’s what all this editing is about. We’re trying to make our story tighter and to make it a great read. To be honest, most of my secondary characters weren’t all that ‘darling’ to me and I was kind of relieved to release them off into the sunset. Who knows, maybe they’ll find another home in one of the books I have yet to write?

7. Adding Emotion to your Romance

The final piece of advice I have been given so far is that there needs to be more emotion on the page whenever my two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, are together. This advice came as a result of the partial edit I had done on my first three chapters and was really useful. The reader knows that your main characters are going to fall in love but you have to keep ramping up the tension every time they meet and although I knew this and it’s what I want as a reader, I could see that I hadn’t really written it into my story as much as I could have done.

And there you have it. This is only a brief summary of what I’ve done so far. I hope to send it off for its final edit next week and only then will I really know if I’ve done everything I can. It has been a steep learning curve for me as a new writer and I couldn’t have got this far without the help of a lot of other people, including the early readers of my novel. In the beginning, I allowed a fair few friends and family members to read parts of the novel and to tell me what they thought. This was only partly helpful because they all said it was great, of course and only picked up on typos. Some did want Rachel to go with a different love interest and that was certainly useful for helping me to develop the plot. Next time, I won’t ask so many people to read it in the early stages though. I will stick with my beta reader and writing friend, Cat, if she’ll still have me (!) and I have another writing friend who has offered to read my final draft this time (she knows who she is but she may have changed her mind since making that offer!) It is a big time commitment to beta read and you need writers to do it for you because they can be impartial, unlike your family and friends.

Good luck with your editing if that’s where you’re at and if you have any questions for me, do ask in the comments below or tell me of something you’ve done which has been really helpful for you. Thanks for reading and see you next week 🙂

 

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

How to stay sane while rewriting

5448851027_fa53139280_mFear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year 😦

I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension 😉 I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here:

http://ryancaseybooks.com/rewriting-novel-less-painful/

Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.

Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.

Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it 🙂

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

http://bit.ly/1gE0LKb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

First Person Point of View – good or bad?

I haven’t had so much time for editing this past week, what with it being the end of a busy term AND nearly Christmas, but I have been plodding on with it bit by bit and reading as much as I can around the subject. Then the other day, I came across an article about point of view in novel writing. Its main point was that new writers often make the mistake of writing in the first person and this reveals their lack of experience. Cue much soul-searching as, of course, you have probably guessed that I have written my debut novel in the first person. All the self-doubt came pouring in as I read through to the end of the article, which assured me that only truly experienced, brilliant writers can pull off writing in the first person. On top of this, a new critique partner I found this week told me that they had only read one novel written in the first person and so felt a bit unsure about commenting on mine because of this aspect. So, I decided to do some more research and came across this article, which was a bit more reassuring but still gives me cause for concern.

http://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-first-person-pov

My concern stems from the fact that I have encountered some of these very problems, for example, the stream of consciousness and the limiting single perspective. It wasn’t ever a conscious decision for me to write in this point of view but now I can see that I might have made my writing life much harder by doing so. However, many books have been written this way, as the article suggests, which is why my new cp’s comment surprised me. I would have thought they would have read many more books written from this perspective than just the one they’re thinking of.

I am left wondering therefore, whether I ought to rewrite the whole thing now and if this would improve the novel immeasurably because it would give me much more freedom as a writer to be writing in the third person. I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter and look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I will let my brain process it and consider how to deal with this latest turn in my learning curve.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A week of incredible generosity from other writers :)

It has been a great week, this week and it really has all been down to the generosity of other writers. So I wanted to share that with everyone who’s writing this week but especially, with new writers like myself.

Firstly, I made contact with the lovely people at WriteStars and Rachel in particular. Rachel read the first chapter of my first draft and gave me some very useful and constructive feedback on it. She told me all about the courses run by WriteStars and advised me about the next steps I could choose to take from here. She did all this out of a generosity of spirit that was quite amazing to me and I really appreciated it. If I could have sent her a bunch of flowers, I would have done 🙂

http://writestars.co.uk

Then, when my NaNoWriMo got off to a bit of a slow start, my new found buddies picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the confidence to carry on. Thanks to their kind words, I am now past 20,000 words and feeling much happier. I have set time aside every day to write, following the advice of pretty much everyone out there who’s done it before and I have put the editing of my first novel on the back-burner for a bit. However, I have found time to keep reading chapters aloud and making editing notes on the hard copy to see to in December, along with all the other comments I have received through one means or another.

Finally, this Saturday, I spent the day in Bedford (UK) at the annual Festival of Romance. This was my first time but it definitely won’t be my last 🙂 What a great day! I listened to authors reading extracts from their novels, chatted with them at the Romance Fair afterwards, asked questions of a panel of authors and received very positive advice from them and attended a workshop called ‘Getting Published’. What amazed me was how upbeat and open they all were about their journeys and how encouraging they were about mine. They were all so generous with their time and their advice and it was so heartening and gratifying to be helped in that way.

Since then, I have followed many of those authors on Twitter and received even more help and advice, when I would have honestly expected them to be too busy. The moral of this post then seems to be that writers like to help each other, wherever they are along their path because they remember how it feels to be starting out and they’re glad to give back to others.

So a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has helped me this week with my writing. I hope that this post gives you an extra boost to keep going through week two of NaNo or whatever writing project you’re currently engaged in and if there’s anyone you’d like to thank for helping you with your writing this past week or a website you’ve found useful, why not share it with us below? Have a good week 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.