Help! A new writer looking at the daunting task of editing here. And I’m scurrred. Who wouldn’t be? You’ve just spent one whole month writing your baby (what you didn’t do Camp Nano or Nano? Oh, ok)…You’ve just spent X number of hours, days, months, and even years knocking out the first draft and now you stare at the sucker. It was perfect and great and now you are starting to see some of its flaws. They are glaring and ugly and in need of copious amounts of TLC, but where to start?
The first obvious place is any errors you catch as you read along. Spelling errors, typos, and anything that sticks out and makes it hard to keep reading. That isn’t too hard. What next? Then I moved on to big plot holes or anything that did not seem right or interesting enough. Check. That brings me to now. What now?
I have never edited anything before–probably because I was avoiding it. The possibility that I would have to cut out huge chunks scared me. Add that with “what if it just plain sucks” running through my head, and now I’m just psyching myself out. When writing has been your dream since you can remember, not succeeding is the worst thought running through the back of your mind. If I don’t finish this, no one can tear it apart. If I work on it forever, I will never have to face the truth.
Sucking it up and moving forward is the bravest, scariest thing you can do. And I am. And I’m nervous. Scared. Confused. Determined. Unsure. So many things going through my mind. Like, when do you let other people read your story? Do you rewrite/edit the crap out of it before letting other people give feedback (if I’m lucky enough to get people to read it and give feedback)? Do you give it a couple of run-throughs and then get advice so you can incorporate said advice in when you are making more edits?
So many questions that I am bumbling through. I’ve asked other writers and continue to stalk them on Twitter to see how everyone else does this and I’ve come to this conclusion: EVERYONE DOES IT DIFFERENTLY! I know, a shocker that there isn’t some universal easy way to do this whole process. I knew that would be the answer, but it is nice to see other methods that I did not consider before. I wondered how people got their beta readers and critique partners so I asked. Many had found their besties from writing contests. Note to self: check out contests. One gave a website for finding them: Note to self, stalk that site.
Little by little, I have gleaned information and tucked it into my little mental folder of how to move on. I’ve read a few books on editing, but I want some manual that instructs you step-by-step on how to go through your pretty first draft and hack it to shreds. I want the best possible story I can have, but how do you know what that is? I am learning that doing is the only way I will ever know and get over my fears. Wish me luck as I jump back into the story and hopefully come out the other side with an even better one!
Like you said, there’s no “one way” of doing it. The best thing you can do is just get as much input as possible. You don’t have to TAKE all the advice people give, but listen to it. Consider it. Make an informed decision about whether or not to follow it. The more input you get, the more options you have to consider about whether you want to accept the advice or not.
I agree. I always listen to advice. I just don’t always follow what is given. I use what works for me. Don’t we all just want an easy way out, though? Fumbling in the dark is a scary thing. I’ll find the lights soon enough 🙂
I always edit for grammar, fix inconsistencies and do what I can to bulk up characterization before I hand it off to a trusted friend. After that, I sit in a corner and rock back and forth.
Rocking back and forth sounds about right. I just made an edit that found major plot holes and glaring errors and am now slowing handing it off. I think getting feedback will help with the next round. Trial and error seems to be my best bet.
You absolutely need beta readers who know writing. You know the inflections of your sentences in your mind, but readers don’t, so they can help identify confusing constructions that sound perfectly fine to you.