Back in November, I started a series of posts on how I organize my thoughts in preparation for writing a rough draft, all the way from my first handwritten page of wants to a peek at my “character grid.” We-e-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l, I’m starting the editorial rewrite of the next Hollows book, and I thought you might like a glimpse at what I do to take that first rough story and turn it into something they will actually pay me for. (grin) Keep in mind that this is what works for me, and there is no wrong way to write, except not to . . .
Before I went on tour, my editor got back to me with a 4 page edit letter. 4 pages!! Nice. I’m usually at six, and I swear my editor uses smaller type to fit more on the page. Not bad. There were three paragraphs on Pierce and some questions I need to answer to make his character stronger and work better, two on Trent regarding logic behind his actions, two on the villain (name to remain undisclosed), one on the beginning, two on the end, and a third on the comfy cozy coda that is one of my writing styles. Two pages on smaller notes pinned to certain pages where I have to answer or clarify something. All in all, not a hard edit. The world is set, so we’re just mucking about with personal logic now.
I also got my original manuscript back. It’s been lightly copyedited for typos and such that Diana caught on her first read through. This is part of the process that is starting to shift in the industry. More and more, authors are being asked to edit on the screen using the tracking function. I can do it, but not seeing that paper in front of me and ME making the changes, not just approving them, seems to divorce me from some of the satisfaction I get from making my work better. My editor likes working with paper, too, so maybe if we keep producing top-notch manuscripts that bring in lots of money, they will leave us alone and let us do it the old-fashioned way. One can hope, but I’m feeling like some of my favorite authors who continued to use a typewriter even when a computer was so much easier and versatile.
Anyway . . . I got my letter before the tour, read it through, and promptly forgot about it, letting the back part of my mind mull it all over for a week or so while I was busy with you guys. Yesterday, I pulled the letter out again and picked it apart with a mind of how I can change things. I’ll usually make notes in the margins of the edit letter, or go back to the manuscript and use that big space at the front of each chapter to jot a few things down like, tighten up for speed. Shift character to next chapter so description doesn’t slow action down. Skip first three pages and get right to action? Move character’s intro forward. Can this character’s function be given to someone else so character can be cut to address Diana’s concern about too many characters? Stuff like that. Still not actually changing anything on the manuscript. I don’t do this for the entire manuscript at once. It usually breaks down to 50 to 100 pages at a time — a day or two’s work.
With the thoughts of how I might tighten and address my editor’s concerns, I then open up the computer with the manuscript in front of me and start going through it page by page, reading it as I fix the small typos that are marked. It refreshes my memory, and reminds me why I can’t take said character out and lets me find new places to wedge a bit of needed info in. I might fix a few things as I go, but the larger stuff I simply make notes for at the beginning of the chapter until I’m sure that me changing it won’t adversely affect something farther down the line.
For example. I have a fairly slow start to this one. I’m not happy with it, and my editor affirmed my thoughts that it was too slow with the simple statement: “Chs. 1-3 Tighten these up a bit” Sigh. That’s all she said, but it’s going to be a three-day work session to fix it. But I’ve got an idea. As it stands, it runs something like this. Cp. one. Trent is at the church, some magic happens. (magic, magic, not romantic magic. ha!) End of chapter one. Chapter two is a fight. Chapter three is a coming together of forces. chapter five, six, and seven, cool stuff happens, and in chapter eight, more magic, which in hindsight, I don’t really need. I had intended this magic to be pulled upon later in the book, but it didn’t happen, which gives me a golden opportunity. To quicken the first two chapters and get to the action faster, I can dump the magic in chapter eight and replace it with the magic in chapter one. Or can I?
If I do that, I have to monkey with some of the emotional logic from chapters three to eight until said magic is preformed and Trent’s a happy camper. Shifting emotions can be tricky, but . . . the emotional distrust that I have to work in will work double duty, adding more texture and more mental gymnastics, which I love. So yesterday, I puttered through the first 100 pages or so changing little things as I went through to text to make sure I can pull this off without having to change too much emotional or structural stuff of what’s already in place. My conclusion? I think so, but chapter eight is going to be a mess. The changes I make will address more than my editor’s suggestion of tightening chapters 1-3, but also the two paragraphs on Trent, so I’m going to give it a try. I feel better about it already.
Making it work. Making it better. Tightening it up. Getting rid of what I don’t need, and making what’s left serve two purposes. Going into making changes full-bore without careful thought will often leave you writing an entirely new story, and that’s not what rewrites are for. Rewriting is a skill, just like the first original splurge of creativity, so take your time and develop it. It will pay off at the end.
PS Don’t forget I’ll be over at B&N chat lists today taking your spoiler questions. Noon today to Noon Friday. ;-)