I’m reading a novel for a friend. I’m just at the beginning of it right now, but I can tell the main character is going to be compelling. I’m only on page nine, and already I feel the girl’s aching and am anxious for her success and her opportunity to overcome adversity and find happiness.
That’s a successful beginning.
As soon as I finish editing for this friend, I’ve got an editing project to do myself. Hrrmmm. I’d actually rather edit someone else’s work. My own is so difficult. It’s hard to see how to cobble the chapters together in a sensible arc, to get rid of story lines that are no longer relevant, characters who have changed too much to be of service, and to make sure the story has that elusive thing: heart.
When I edit, I’ll do a few passes. Here they are:
A plot edit, to make sure the plot is there and solid. This is the most important edit, and it has to be done first because unless it’s there, I’m just doubling up on work later. Plot needs to have conflict, rising tension, rising stakes, and decisions for the characters to make.
Then I’ll do a pacing edit, to put the right crises at the right places.
Then I do a character edit, to make sure the characters a) stay in character, but that b) they also change in the right ways. I think that’s where putting “heart” in the story takes place.
Then I’ll do a dialogue edit, watching to see that the characters always sound like themselves, and that they sound unique from each other.
Then, last of all I do a line edit. That is for the grammar and punctuation, etc. This is best done reading aloud, for me. It’s amazing what sounds different than it looks on paper! Another option that I’ve tried and found really effective, is going from the last of the document and reading sentence by sentence from the end. This keeps my eyes from that “glazing over” I tend to get when I’ve come to the end of the editing process after reading my MS for what feels like the zillionth time. It’s a good way to see it afresh.
At some point in here, I also recommend giving it to a beta reader. Usually I try to find a beta reader before the line edit. That’s because often a beta reader will make suggestions for improving plot or character, which can sometimes change big chunks of text, so it’s not necessary to do those nitpicky things before a revamping.
Now, I’ve taken enough of a brain break and I’m headed back to editing my friend’s novel.
Ooh, and there’s a lot of screaming in the other room. Yikes. Gotta go. Motherhood is so exciting!