Editing my fantasy novel


I am trying something a bit different with my edit of Snow. Well something new for me. I am following someone else’s editing plan to the letter. Every step of their plan and it’s a strange thing. Usually I take bits from others but not follow someone else’s plan so directly.

The plan I’m following is that of Susan Dennard.

The first step is to read through the manuscript and mark up the problem areas. As I read and marked with coloured lines (according to the instructions) I thought all was going well. There was a lot to do, lots of comments and coloured marks but I thought “it all works to make it stronger” and I’m sure it will.

The next step is to develop an outline. I did this, again as per the instructions, using index cards. I found this useful because I didn’t really have an outline before I started. This novel was written by the seat of my pants. It has been edited several times, so I had a reasonable idea but still found the actual process with a pen in hand quite useful.

I wrote out a summary of each scene, then went back over each and marked where there were problems, such as too long, too short, no antagonist or conflict. Then I put the two together, marking up each scene card with a sticky note from the notes I made when I read through. I started with plot issues and worked my way through the pile.

It was during this point that I thought, why am I using what works for someone else. It doesn’t feel like it’s working for me. It is just repetition; I’ve done this bit already.

But I persisted and by the time I started back through the pile of cards with the character issues it was starting to make more sense. Some index cards came through this process with no sticky notes but most had at least two and some are so covered I couldn’t see what was there originally.

With the marked up index cards and the notes of what I wanted this book to be I started on the hard stuff – although fun stuff. Putting all those needed changes into the manuscript itself. This takes time. It needs to take time to ensure that I am doing it properly. I have been pounding away at this stage for a week now and only a couple of chapters in. But I have found the process quite useful. If I was to do it again (with the next project) I might look at it a little differently but so far I’ve found Susan’s plan more than helpful.

There is a long way to go before the next stage, which is typing all my changes in. Although it might be worth considering typing in some changes as I go, if it helps the process to continue to flow.

The long road to editing success


Or so it seems. As I work my way through two editing projects I thought I would share where I am up to…

For my larger work I am trying a new process, aiming for one serious edit and then it is done. To do this I am using a process mapped out by another writer, taken from a Holly Lisle workshop, Susan Dennard has simplified the process and set it out, with worksheets, how it works for her.

In a recent writers group meeting we discussed those writers that tell us that we have to do it their way because that is what works. An insistence that the process will not work in part and that we must follow their instructions completely. And it is interesting the variety of authors we have read, or completed workshops with that give us this view for a range of writing practices. Covering everything from drafting and editing to the whole writing process.

I thought it was about time I attempted editing with a serious plan. I am trailing this process to discover what parts of it work for me. We are all different and I believe we should take what we can from other writers as we develop our own writing practice.

I have started at the beginning of Susan’s process and I’m reading through the entire manuscript. As I read I make note of the issues I come across. This is ideally simplified on the hard copy with a reference in the margin relating to the type of issue I find. Then in my notebook I make a detailed note of what that issue is. I am focused on four main areas: plot, character, setting and other (doesn’t fit in any of the others).

It is much slower than I thought it would be. The amount of time required has made me realise just how out of sync I am at the moment; how I have not been concentrating on my writing as much as I would want to and that my set writing times have slipped.

Anyway, once I have read through the entire manuscript and made note of the problems I will have a good idea of what needs to change and hopefully how I can fix it. I am also using my beta-reader notes during this process as well. Several of my readers have marked the manuscript for problem areas and provided a summary at the end detailing major issues and what I could consider as options to fix it. This is a very useful process, and one that you need to do with an open mind and a thick skin. It is essential to remember not a personal attack it is constructive criticism of the work.

Just yesterday one of my readers was telling me how she had wanted to provide honest feedback. I agree that honesty is the main point of the exercise. If you don’t want honest feedback don’t put your work out there.

I find that writing and re-writing a story I am too close to really see where the problems are. The feedback helps ground me and see the story from the readers’ perspective, which is essential because I am writing for readers. If the audience doesn’t like it, then they won’t read it, or buy the next one….

Susan’s notes describe how we should first determine what we have written and then look at what we wanted to write. I am still looking at what I have and although it is taking time, I know it is worth it for I want this to be the best story it can be. Once that part of the process is complete I can start on what it needs to be – or what I want it to be.

Have you trialled someone else’s system? What did you learn from the experience?