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What does your editing proces look like?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Prince of Spires, May 16, 2020.

  1. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    I just finished the first draft of the novel I've been working on (woot!) and am getting ready for the next step, editing the thing (I know about a lot of places where stuff should be done better...).

    I've read a fair bit about the editing proces. But, the more I learn about writing, the more I find out that it's a process which is different for everyone. So, I'm curious into what peoples editing proces looks like. Not the theory, but what do you actually do? How many rounds do you edit? What do you look for when? And so on...
    Nigel likes this.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Oh, if only there were rounds. For me, it's more of a lurching forward through a murky landscape filled with shapes I only half-recognize. Perhaps I can be more specific.

    I struggle with knowing when I've written Draft 1 because I don't write in a linear fashion; this, despite the fact that I outline and research extensively. With each of my books I have written the final chapter while still working on others. More specific? I've written the *climax* -- the denounement usually happens rather later. So, some chapters I'm happy with while others I'm not. The weight slowly shifts in one direction toward happy (or least not grumpy).

    I've come to decide that Draft 1 happens when I send it to the editor. But that means I've worked over some scenes a dozen times. I've read through the whole thing multiple times. I've gone back through chapters I've declared (to myself) completed only to decide later they needed some sprucing up.

    With every novel I want there to be a process. A sequence of events. After three novels and two novelettes (and four short stories) it hasn't happened yet. I feel like I'm working with a dancer who absolutely can't hit his marks from one performance to the next.

    And yet, I somehow manage to finish and tell a story. I embrace the chaos.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    My process looks like Relativity by MC Escher... or perhaps a Salvador Dali painting, heh heh.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  4. Adela

    Adela Minstrel

    Outlining? What's that like? Short stories?

    I hit the ground running and don't look back. Then I look back WAY too many times. It's more like feeling my way through a dark forest. Write to point A then to point B and so on, always with the ending in mind. But, as I'm going along something pops up I didn't intend that either makes the story better, or worse for the characters. So, I'm forced to go back and rewrite past events to make them fit. It sometimes ends up being like moving a puzzle around.

    Oh! And removing the word "that" a lot.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  5. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    Proof reading is a seperate facet of my process. Done in a vaccuum. If I'm proof editing, I don't let myself tinker around beyond actual errors, syntax, grammar, etc.

    Revision and draft editing? Well... I edit pretty intensely as I am drafting. Partly because I'm a waypoint writer... but I essentially write "dark stage" outlines, almost screenplays, and keep adding in more and more details and substance until I am satisfied it is, indeed, prose... then mercilessly edit it all again.

    And like skip.knoxskip.knox, I don't draft in chronological order. My master outline that I refer back to, changes as I get new / better ideas ...but key ideas/scenes or themes usually get expanded upon, not changed or removed completely.

    Nothing is really sacred or off limits to improvements. I've re-ordered events, cancelled out characters, deleted scenes, etc. I mostly draft and write on paper because it is easier to mentally re-arrange things. And I write with a pen so much faster than I could ever hope to type.

    By final draft time, the editing shifts to correcting continuity/ logic plot errors and to make sure I'm satisfied with dialogue, environmental details, etc. That's when it gets typed into a digital file.

    When it's digitial, that's when I go through and really, truly wordsmith and refine prose. There might be more than one draft in circulation because I end up emphasizing different themes, emotions, events... not unlike experimenting in a recording studio. I can recraft the entire tone of the work based on decisions I make here.

    Then, basic proof reading.

    That's when it/they go to beta readers. Because I want a 'real-time' commentary track to see if I'm hitting the right tone, getting reactions, etc.

    After readers, I might go back and tinker again.
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I constantly edit, for starters. Then I run it through ProWritingAid to catch a lot of basic errors, but of course! Not only does it not catch everything, it also catches things that don’t need caught. I don’t drop into passive often, but when I do it’s hard to catch on my own because I tend to get caught up in the story. Then, I’ll run it through Grammarly. Then, I’ll take a look at what Word tries to correct. Then, I read the entire thing again. Outloud and recorded if I’m feeling ambitious... this catches things that I don’t like, but also aren’t errors. Repeated words are caught well this way, or odd echoes. Then I’ll probably read it again. Then I send it to a human editor. Then as I decide on the editor’s suggestions, I’ll undoubtedly tinker with things because... because that’s what I do as a constant tinkerer.

    That might be simplified. If I find -ly adverbs outside of dialogue, or passives, or other red flags I tend to find areas where I wasn’t on my game, but these days, I tend to catch those before the automated editing process kicks in. Perfecting the voice I wanted for Eve of Snows wa a lot of detail work that I can now more or less breeze by now.
    ThinkerX likes this.
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Your process sounds a lot like mine used to. Hadn't opened ProWritingAid or Grammarly in many a month, though that might change. I was using Word, until that self destructed. Got to the point where apart from the odd comma or spelling issue, it 'read pretty good.'
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I will always have an odd comma issue, heh heh. Commas are my demons. Even when Iknow the rules, I’ll start second guessing and things blow up. Otherwise, I really like the data that Prowritingaid builds, it’s just kind of fun even if it means nothing. When there isn’t a single “slow” paragraph in the a chapter I give myself a high five... at least mentally. The best part about them is not the corrections, really, but that they make me think.

    I’ll also add, things can read just fine and I’ll still tinker. it’s an illness only cured by publication.

    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  9. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I don't stop to edit, except to fix typos if they're not too far behind me or completely unreadable (I use a blank keyboard and I drink; shit happens.)

    But I don't edit until my last draft. I write each novel all the way through 3-4 times from a blank page. That's not counting Draft Zero, which is a glorified outline of 40-60K words with some sections in present tense and some scenes that are just pictures I pasted in.

    So my process goes outline > synopsis > Draft Zero > back cover copy > 3-4 clean drafts > editing.

    I hire professional editing help. I don't do it myself; I'm not that good.

    The final draft goes to structural editing (storyline, plot holes, characterization, major continuity glitches ["you killed this character three chapters ago"], chemistry, motivation, metaphors, imagery, subtext, allegory, contingencies of your rhetoric and all that other "writer" stuff), after which I give it a partial but usually major rewrite according to the editor's recommendations, which can take weeks to months.

    After that, it goes to line editing (voice & dialogue consistency, stylism [your personal quirks as a writer that the editor thinks you can get away with and what she thinks you can't], smaller-issue continuity glitches ["this character is wearing a red shirt, here you've got him in a blue one]", crutch words, clunky phrasing, awkward descriptions, muddled cliches, pacing, syntax; line editing is kind of like copy editing, but think of line editing as the "art" and copy editing as the "science" of how words work). There's a lot of back and forth on this part, and it can take several weeks. When we talk about a writer hating their editor? It's usually line editing we're talking about. A good line editor will call you out on your BS.

    After line editing, it goes to copy editing (the English Teacher's red pen stuff: grammar, word choice, malapropisms, spelling and usage consistencies) which takes about a week and I don't even know why I handle it issue by issue when I should just hit Accept Changes and call it good but I never do.

    After copy editing, we do the layouts for mobi, epub, paperback, and hardcover design. This takes a few weeks, and my wife and I do this part ourselves, although initially we hired a professional and paid her extra to build us custom templates and sell them to us. I do the paperback interior first.

    When it's done, the paperback goes to proofreading (typos, punctuation, spelling). When I get it back, I use the paperback interior file as the master copy and make every proofreading change one by one in the other versions as I finish them. This, BTW, is the worst part of the entire process. Hands-down.
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I'm not that ambitious. First draft: words with direction; second draft: make it look like I knew what direction; past that editing and patches. I still find myself going back and either adding or modifying entire chapters to works previously deemed 'done' because I realized things were left hanging.

    I read through vast piles of indie Kindle works (literally hundreds per year) and while most are passable, I see quite a few (even ones with 4-5 star reviews) with multiple grammar, character, and worldbuilding issues.
    Malik likes this.
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Yeah, I try real hard to have things finalized in word Docs so I do as little of the edits to different versions thing as little as possible, LOL. What I sadly discovered was that moving from Scrivener to InDesign in anything but Word (I think) causes InDesign lose a lot of formatting including italicized character thoughts... that was a painful damned lesson for sure. THAT is a terror from the Twelve Hells going back to find all the italics. I make sure the ebook is done first then set both the paperback and hardcover at the same size of 6x9 using InDesign, which I take a weird pleasure in the typesetting side of things... it must be an illness. So really, I have two versions for digital and print, the main difference being the cover sizes.

    For the most part I’ve had little trouble with line editors... if something gets pointed out I usually agree and fix it, but none I’ve met write like I do, so they pretty much just say “fix this, it’s clunky” I say “damn it! I thought I was gonna get away with that”, and then fix it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a line edit of more than a few words and accepted it. The only real back and forth I had with an editor was on Eve of Snows where she thought I needed a prologue, and I thought it didn’t... So I sent her a pseudo-prologue, she loved it, and off we went.

    Malik likes this.
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Oh hell, you can find those in the works of big name authors. Not to mention simply atrocious writing, heh heh. Sanderson has a big continuity error with the same door beginning to break twice on two different pages. It happens.

    I had a horror shit-show releasing book 2... I won’t even get into that tale, but the other day after all the beta readers, my reading, the computer checks, an editor... a “soul” got past for “sole” and I just stared and stared. In these books I use the word soul alot, so my fingers apparently decided to type it, and it slipped by... although I swear to God I fixed it once. Which is actually possible and part of the shit-show caused by a freakish oevrwrite that I never have been able to explain.

    Now the funny one is that in Trail of Pyres the Booklife reviewer mentioned plot inconsistencies... but I’m 99.9% the reviewer was catching intentional inconsistencies that are clues to other factors. But of course I don’t get to debate a reviewer and find out for sure.

  13. J.W. Golan

    J.W. Golan Scribe

    I begin knowing the beginning, the end, and a few key scenes in between. These are the first things I’ll write down. From this I’ll assemble a chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene outline, to help me connect the elements of the story and fill in any gaps. From there I’ll complete the first draft, beginning to end.

    For me, the first draft is a skeleton. I accept that it’s missing a lot of details and items that need to be smoothed over. The word count will usually jump by around 10-20 percent between the first and second draft as I add missing scenes and details.

    After the second draft, I’ll do three more rounds of clean-up and rewrite, before I’m satisfied that it’s ready for a Beta Reader. I usually have two rounds of Beta Reader reviews and edits before I’m satisfied that it’s ready to go to print.

    So that’s the seventh draft before I’ll be formatting for eBook (pretty easy) and paperback (a little more involved) manuscripts.

    Every author has to find the routine that works for them.
  14. nck

    nck Scribe

    It depends. Ideally, I'll just write a complete draft and then edit it after, but if something really isn't working and I think I know how to fix it, I'll go back and do that before I keep going. I'm currently in the process of rewriting an incomplete draft to be in third versus first person, for example.

    One of the advantages of primarily working in shorter forms is that editing incomplete drafts generally doesn't represent that much extra work, so it's more likely that I'll still finish the thing than if I was going back to rewrite the beginning parts of a novel, which might represent a lot more words than the 1,000ish I'm looking it with the first third-to-quarter of a short story.
  15. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    Asking teachers and internet people to critique them, page by page.
    Mia likes this.
  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    It looks like my writing partners laughing at my typos.
    Adela, S.T. Ockenner and Malik like this.
  17. Nigel

    Nigel Acolyte

    As a part time amateur trying to hold together three linked books, I think the best description is haphazard and lacking discipline. It’s something I need to improve.
    I am a terrible self critic so revise, edit and rewrite without mercy regularly though to keep the momentum going and to remind myself it’s worth all the angst!
    S.T. Ockenner and Adela like this.

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