Editing sucks. Revising an novel is worse than hell. And I hate it. And I hate you. And I hate life.
Those are just a few of the things you might hear writers say when they are experiencing those clean-up blues. But here’s a dirty little secret: It’s really not as bad as people make it out to be.
Sure, it’s fun to pretend like editing is the worst thing ever. “Leave me alone. I’m editing,” you say to everyone you know in your crankiest voice. “I’m revising my novel, so I’m allowed to snap at the world.”
But come on. Writing the book is only the first part.
You finished your book? Good for you. Now get to work.
Name one profession that gets everything right the first time. No such job exists, and writing is no different. When you finish that first draft, it’s going to be full of problems. It’s your job as a writer, to fix all of the problems.
But, Stephen King said his editor–
None of us are Stephen King. And, honestly, no matter how great your editor is, it’s not the editor’s job to fix first draft. It’s totally on the writer.
So, let’s take my current WIP for example. When I finished the first draft, I had:
- A non-cohesive, confusing plot.
- Interchangeable characters.
- Minimal world-building.
- No clear theme.
- A contradiction on every corner.
This was basically a NaNoWriMo novel I did that I started by combing two unfinished short stories to make up the first chapter. So I really did go in completely blind.
But fixing it up wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I thought it would be.
The first thing I did was to get to work on first revision was to read the novel through from the beginning while taking fairly detailed notes. And by that, I mean that I wrote a paragraph or two for every page-break in the book. This left me with a good 4000-word summary. Not a synopsis, mind you, but a full scene-by-scene outline of the story.
What did I do that for? Consistency. I read over the tightened up summary, and noted every plot inconsistency I found. And did I ever find a lot.
There were little things: “Wait, shouldn’t it still be Tuesday?”
And there were big things: “Uh, didn’t that guy die two chapters ago?”
The next step was to read the novel again, but this time before every scene, I’d read the summary paragraph from the outline and make sure what was in the actual story matched it. I didn’t change a whole lot at this point; we’re still looking at plot. All I did was make a comment in the manuscript.
After that part was done, then I did the full rewrite based on the outline. It turned out okay. I had to cut a ton of stuff, and redo a bunch of characters. But in the end it came out pretty well at whopping 53,000 words…
…which is way too short.
Scroll back up to my list of things that were wrong with the novel, and check out # 3.
3. World-building. This is still way lacking in the new book, which explains the low word count.
So yeah, I still have a lot of work to do. But at least I’ve got the plot mostly good for now.