As you might know if you’ve been following the ongoing page/word count on Facebook, I’ve been editing Spark and Carousel, and thinking about the editing process as I do so, trying to come up with some tips to make it easier. Some people I know love the second-draft edit, and see it as carving a shapeless first draft into an elegant statue. Others (me) think it more akin to repeatedly sticking a chisel through their hand. As always, what works for me may not work for you, but here are a few things that I’ve found make the process more fun.
1. DON’T edit when you’re tired. Or drunk (for the love of little bunnies don’t edit when you’re drunk.) Line editing takes a lot of concentration, and you won’t see that stray comma or embarrassing typo unless you’re alert. Caffeine is your friend.
2. DO get a few people to beta your work when you finish the first draft. Good beta readers are more valuable that chocolate-coated diamonds, and if you find some you should nurture them, buy them coffee, take them out to dinner…. One person may see half a dozen things you haven’t spotted and make suggestions, another will see a different half-dozen things. Always remember that, while a beta reader will point out typos and poor grammar and plot holes, at the end of the day any changes to your book are your choice. They may want to add a character or change an event, but don’t follow them down a path you feel uncomfortable with. And buy them chocolate!
3. DON’T panic when you get halfway through and realise that you’re sick of the book / that you’re a terrible writer / that it makes no sense. This is the nagging spectre of self-doubt trying to bring you down. I don’t know a writer who hasn’t had those feelings. Have another mug of coffee, grit your teeth and press on. You will find things in your manuscript that surprise you by being Actually Quite Good.
4. DO back up your work every five minutes. This should be emblazoned on every monitor in letters of gold.
5. TRY editing in different ways, by hand on printed pages, on screen, in silence, with music, on a laptop in a coffee shop. Experiment to find the way that works best for you! I edit on my desktop, with the soundtrack to the book playing in the background, to get me in the mood for each particular scene. You may prefer to edit in silence. Whatever works for you is the “right” way.
6. DON’T try to do too much at once. Don’t force yourself to finish it in a week (unless you have a hideous looming deadline). Take your time and have fun with it. I find a chapter a day is plenty, after that my brain starts packing up. But if you find you’re on a roll, then by all means keep going!
7. DON’T procrastinate. Set aside time for editing and use it for editing, not checking Twitter / phoning your mates to moan about editing / grabbing a fifth cup of coffee / drafting a brilliant idea for a new short story / checking Twitter…
8. DO try and enjoy it. You might find you love editing, but if you don’t, reward yourself at the end of a session with something you do like – chocolate, time out to read a book, shopping, a wander round to the shops to buy MORE COFFEE.
And don’t forget that spending time over this stage will lead, eventually, to a better, more polished, more tightly-plotted, finished book that you can be proud of and happily clutch in your trembling, coffee-stained fist when it gets published. Good luck.
If any of you want to share any editing tips of your own, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear them. So, how do you go about it?