Jan 26, 2010

Edit Time - Who has it?

I keep saying I'm editing my manuscript Dog Show Detective, but in reality I've overloaded myself with so many books, podcasts and courses on editing, that I barely had time to even tackle the manuscript. So this week, I learned to stop reading techniques and start applying them. I now actually have scribbles and marking right through chapter 1! (small victory but I still celebrate)

My main source of information for this first edit was based on Holly Lisle's 'How To Revise Your Novel' course. I'm only halfway through week one, but it has already proved helpful. If you'd like to check that course out, you'll find it here:

What has it taught me so far?
That my first step should be to step back and review my initial intentions with the novel, how that has changed and what I want from it now. I can find questions like this a bit ambiguous, I need clear instructions, so fortunately for me there are worksheets in the course (I love worksheets!).

This was an eye opener for me, I hadn't even thought about what I want my novel to be! Now it's a bit clearer for me I can tackle the edits with that in mind. I'll have a FOCUS.

Next step was to read through my manuscript and look for problems with character, setting, story, boring bits and identify the successful moments. The last bit is the most important to me, I thrive on praise, even if it's from myself! That's something I try to remember to give freely and deservingly to my students in the classroom.

Holly provides codes and worksheets, so you can write the code into the manuscript and then record the issue, problem or reflection into a table. I'm guessing when it's all done I go through my sheets and then systematically fix all the character problems with the narrative, then maybe all the parts where the story is too slow etc.

Last week I told you I would dedicate a certain time of day to editing - I'm trialling 10am-12noon. How has this gone? Well, it took almost the week to get into the swing of stopping housework, ignoring people and getting down to work. I think I'm trying to recapture the NaNoWriMo motion where the manuscript takes priority (just for a couple of hours). 

Mostly I spent this time reading editing books like Revision & Self-Editing (Bell) and Manuscript Makeover (Lyon). I've been a bit scattered and sifting through lots of sources. I needed more FOCUS. So, I decided to stick with the How to Revise Your Novel course yesterday, and I found I was a lot more productive.

Dog Show Detective - the edit:
Wait, I was so careful writing this, surely it's perfect? Um, no.
As this story is primarily about a girl and her dog, I realised that they should be the first characters introduced. Kitty is first (my 11yr old protagonist), but Spade (the dog) is the second dog introduced - will fix that! He is the star of the story after all.
Kitty's family consists of her mother, father and little brother - there was also an old dog. I'm scrapping the old dog, he just didn't propel the story at all. Spade will be the only dog in the family. 
I need to do some character work on the father and brother. At the moment they just seem to be 'there' without having enough of their own role in the narrative, they need more dimension. I'll spend some time trying to figure who they should be, maybe do a character profile on them.
My flashback was too long, too much description about their old house and blah blah (even explaining it bores me). That will become more succinct. 
Most importantly, I found some little gems that I love, little comments that are insights to Kitty's personality and her weaknesses. These bits are my rewards and motivation to push on to chapter two.

On a final note, the most important ingredient for editing is... a manuscript. You have to finish the story before you can fix it, promote it, etc. If you're still writing you might find some of my older posts helpful for when I was writing my NaNoWriMo novel, there's lots of links to helpful sites.

If you feel like you are drowning in the process, just remember Dory's wise words from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."


  1. I LOVE Dory from Finding Nemo! This is a great post, Charmaine. I appreciate the link and editing lesson tips. Thanks! :-)

  2. Good words to say over and over: Just Keep swimming!
    Keep moving forward! (Meet the Robinsons)
    and, from you: When the middles start to sag, bring in a guy with a gun. I'm thinking about how to do that in my historical fiction novel AND real life. Middles are a-saggin' in Minnesota!

  3. Thanks for following guys and for putting out such great blogs for me to enjoy!