On March 27, I typed The End on my latest manuscript. That’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Until the next day when I realize I have to rewrite it. I know of very few writers who can consistently complete a novel in one draft.
One thing I’ve learned is to not jump into writing the second draft immediately. I’m too close to it. The adrenaline and emotions of the writing process are still high. I need to calm down so I can approach the book with a more critical eye. I need to make time to fall out of love with my darlings.
So I put the story aside. I liken this to putting a meal in a Crockpot. The ingredients are my characters, the story world, the plot along with the dialogue and the theme. The first draft is finished. Now I let it simmer for four to six weeks.
And I go do something else. I’ll start a new story or begin the initial research on it. But I leave the finished book alone.
On May 5, I opened the manuscript and began editing. For me, this is a multi-part process. I print it out and read it, making corrections in red, jotting notes about further research, promises to the reader, plot points, etc.
Then I have my computer read it to me. In this step, I catch stuff I missed in the first reading: missing words, typos, etc. I also look for inconsistencies in the story line as well as plot problems, dialogue issues, characterization, tension and suspense. And are there any darlings I need to kill—characters, scenes, chapters I really like but honestly don’t add anything to the story.
Two weeks ago, I began the third phase of my self-editing—the rewrite itself. I work on the problems my two reading brought out. I answer the research questions. I look to tighten by cutting unnecessary words, descriptions, and dialogue. And, yes, I kill a few darlings along the way.
The hardest part is being honest with myself about areas that need improving or changing. I’m blessed with writing partners who have been critiquing it right along. They don’t let my ego take control.
When this is finished in another week or so, I’ll be ready to send it to my beta readers.
What’s the hardest part of editing and rewriting for you?