Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Editing Progress and Process

I've heard back from my editors and have already gone through to make all of the minor edits. Right now, I'm making the big decisions about which scenes to rewrite entirely, whether to add scenes, cut scenes, flesh out scenes--lots of big decisions. I've already rewritten two scenes, and plan to rewrite at least five more. I fleshed out one scene, but I may flesh it out further, if it won't strain the flow and pacing of the story. I cut one scene and may cut another, depending on whether I believe it's really important to the plot of the story.

Fortunately, I had four skilled people edit my book, and I have a fair amount of feedback as I go through this process. Unfortunately, as always happens, my editors had some points on which they completely disagreed.

The reason that I seek as many opinions as possible when editing is that individual opinions can vary wildly. I don't want to hear only from people who love my book, or only from people who wouldn't read my book on their own. Although this mix of opinions definitely benefits my book, it also makes the editing process more complicated.

After all, if Editor A loves a critical aspect of the story and Editor D loathes it, while Editors B and C think of it in a generally positive light, I have to weigh a number of factors. It might be that my style isn't a good fit for Editor D, and that the people who would want to read my book would enjoy it. But I don't want to discount the strong reaction it provoked. If it were a minor aspect of the story, I might still err on the side of the strong, negative reaction and try to find a middle ground that all editors would love. In this case, the change in question would require rewriting 60%+ of the book and spoiling some important scenes from later books. I think that it might also diminish some of the reread value of the books.

However, I'm trying to think of other possibilities. Responses in general to my books have been quite positive thus far, and I'd like to work to ensure that this particular hurdle doesn't distract from that. The most difficult part of editing--for me, at least--is making decisions. I can write fifty thousand words in two weeks if need be; the writing is not my main concern. I feel like I'm on the verge of finalizing my decisions, however, so this should move forward steadily.

For those interested, my editing process, from beginning to end, is beneath the cut.

Editing process:

  1. Write a rough draft.
  2. Collect general impressions from beta readers: "I loved this." "I hated this." "This part was boring." "This character was way more interesting than that character."
  3. Rewrite the book from start to finish, keeping those comments in mind.
  4. Collect general impressions from original beta readers and new beta readers.
  5. Rewrite the book again from start to finish, keeping those comments in mind.
  6. Reread the book, editing parts that continue to bother me, etc.
  7. Send the book out to editors and writers, as well as the original beta readers; collect final feedback.
  8. Rewrite and cut and flesh out parts of the book accordingly, if they agree that it's solid enough to not need a total rewrite.
  9. Read the book out loud to check for confusing sentences, awkward flow, overused words, etc.
  10. Send the book to the final beta readers for last minute changes.
This, of course, takes a long time, especially since I tend to go on writing then editing binges. (I rewrote four or five books in a year, then put them away while I wrote/rewrote six more books the following two years, for example. I then decided that they all needed to be rewritten again.) Even so, I think that the process works pretty well for me. I get feedback from a variety of readers, writers, and editors, which gives me more perspective on my book than a single editor could. 

So, even though it can make editing more difficult, I think it's worth it.

One last comment to those who think that they can't write, or could never write a book:

My first book was an abomination. I was fortunate in that I had a lot of support from friends as I wrote it, and even more fortunate, after finishing it, that a friend told me I could do better and should rewrite it. Writing a shoddy first draft does not make you a bad writer. Remember this: ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE TERRIBLE. All of them, if you look back on them after a few more years of writing, will make you wince. That's why rewriting is so important. (In my opinion, the entire book should be rewritten without looking at the first draft, but everyone's different.) To get better, you have to read and write nearly constantly. You learn how to put a book together by reading critically; writing takes practice, just like every other art.

I am one hundred percent sure that you can write something worth reading. I'll get off my soap box, now. I just feel so sad when people say that they can't possibly write a book...

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