Congratulations – you’re done! You finished the first draft of your novel. Now the work begins. Sorry, I’m not joking. Writing your manuscript is just the beginning. Now it’s time to go back and see what needs fixing (let’s be honest – it needs fixing).
Like everything else in the writing process, there are many ways to edit. I’ve worked my way through a few manuscripts and have learned some things about my work style.
1. Take a week off. After you finish your manuscript, walk away from it. Let your brain relax. Read something new. You want to edit with fresh eyes, so give yourself a chance to forget the story for a while.
2. Read it. Don’t jump right into editing. Take a couple of days to just read your novel. If you see a glaring mistake, make a quick note, then keep going. Resist the urge to pick up the red pen and just enjoy the story you wrote.
3. Bird by Bird (thanks Anne Lamott). Editing 80,000 words can intimidate anyone. Take it one manageable chapter at a time. Not only will you still accomplish a complete edit, but by setting and meeting smaller goals it can help prevent frustration.
4. Edit & Stop. Don’t over edit your work. Make your changes, then stop. Get some critiques (see next week’s post). Make some more changes (if suggested and accepted), but do not edit your work every time you pick it up. That’s a failsafe way to never move on.
5. Get Crits. That’s not a rash – it’s short for critiques. You need a critique partner (or group). It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone needs a trusted, outside opinion. Your mom doesn’t count (even if she’s a published novelist). Find someone who knows the world of fiction, someone you trust.
These may not work for you, but it will give you a starting point. Feel free to share your secrets and suggestions – what works for you?
Stop back next week for a quick look at critiquing!