The Blackwater Witch was only the second novel I’d even finished the first draft of, that being said, I was pretty damned excited (wohoo, look at me over here, I have an entire first draft!!!). It was easy, I was in love with the story, the characters, the world, they were mine. It was dirty, gritty, scary, twisted, and best of all, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Cue the editing…
Noooooo, why is this so hard!
I’m pretty sure every author who has stuck with it long enough has experienced this feeling. So how did I get through eight or nine (lost track) drafts, and to a semi-polished story? Well, here are my top five tips, maybe they’ll help you, maybe they’ll make you bury your head in your hands and sob in despair, I hope sincerely that it is the first of the two.
1. Determination: If you want to be a writer you’re going to have to develop some pure determination, things don’t just happen, and the best writers don’t just become so overnight. If you aren’t a hundred percent determined that you’re going to finish your project, it will chew you up and spit you out.
Don’t despair though, as far as I’m concerned, determination is something you can achieve at any point in time, in another words, it’s never too late (unless you’re literally on death’s doorstep).
So maybe you have days where everything looks like crap and you want to get in a rocket, and take your manuscript to the nearest blackhole (it’s 1,600 light years by the way) and toss it in, but the important thing is that you pull yourself back up, brush off and keep soldiering on.
2. A Plan: This is my favorite advice. Why? Because editing a novel is nothing like writing a novel. Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m a pantser, but when it come editing time I do one of two things, A: Make no plan and end up swimming in a swirling abyss of confusion Or B: Make a plan that I can follow, and see my progress.
Progress is the most important word here. Progress helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. For me this means that once I have all my chapters lined up (in separate text documents) I edit each one once, mostly looking for big stuff like holes that need to be filled and story lines that need to be tweaked, and things that say ‘blurgh gurg’ when the character is really supposed to be saying ‘I love you, dammit!’. In short, the obvious stuff. I go over each chapter four more times after that, tweaking and polishing as much as I can, but keeping in mind that even after that I’ll still be able to go over it again. Each chapter that receives five full edits gets put in a special folder titled 5. It’s kinda like getting little sticker stars for a job well done.
Then I give myself some time away, that way when I come back it will look fresh, I’ll see things I didn’t see before (wow this chapter seemed so awesome when I read it last time, how come it’s so terrible now?). I go over all the chapters two more times, as quickly as I can so that I get a better overview, then, only then, do I go out and hunt a beta reader…
3: A Deadline: I don’t know about you, but for me a deadline really sets a fire under me. Sure I’m the one who made it, so if I break it no one is going to punish me, but nothing stings like disappointment in ones self.
Make your deadlines reasonable though. Make sure you have the tools you need to accomplish them, and don’t be too worried if you go over a day here and there. If deadlines do nothing else for you, they will give you extra structure to work with, a goal to work towards.
4: Editing First, Internet Last: I know you’re currently scrolling around, hunting for that unsubscribe button, but that’s only because you know it’s true. Sure, it’s hard. Come on, just one peek, what’s in my email, how’s my blog traffic doing, just a little, then I’ll work.
Nope, the internet is a web, one designed to keep you tangled up until your novel rots into oblivion, so be careful.
5: Discover New Things About Your Characters: Even if you did tons of outlines and character bios to start with, there’s always something new and juicy to discover. My favorite exercise is to write pivotal scenes from my characters life, even if they don’t end up in the book. I just write them, loosely, discover them.
Learning more about your characters can open your world back up, make it exciting again, and that excitement goes a long ways. This also helps you fill in details that you couldn’t before, make the story more life like.
What are your favorite ways to get to editing? Have you even started? Do you even have a first draft? Let me know down below!