Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for Editing

The most unpalateable lesson I have learned from the MA is that my first drafts are inadequate. That's me being polite, really. Any combination of the words pile, poo and steaming should cover it. I'm always left speechless by people whose first drafts are accomplished, elegant prose but I do have one advantage. I have learned to rewrite because I have to.

Not push things around a bit, I mean sit down and substantially retype the whole lot. Maybe even massively revise the plot. Delete characters, whole chapters, change the genre of the book. That gets me the second draft.  For Borrowed Time I added an entire historical strand, squeezing out several subplots. One will end up in book 2. Arrange heapcompost and fermenting.

The third draft seems to be the one where the book settles down. maybe bits from the second draft stay in - that's helpful, but they may change order a bit. I start worrying about whether the characters are consistent, and that the main character (MC) is sufficiently visible and likeable. I sent in Borrowed Time halfway between draft 2 and draft 3. Bits had been tidied, the second half had not. Try: a book, like and looks.

Fourth draft, and now I'm really doing minor edits,  re-ordering scenes and maybe cutting unnecessary stuff. This is where I start to look for clichés, clunky sentences, mistakes and my absolute bugbear, repetitions. I start to make sure dialogue is well signposted, something I hate when I'm reading if the speaker of a line isn't clear. Some sentences don't make sense, like: 'My father broke down the door with my brother', which perhaps would be better phrased: 'My father and brother broke down the door.' I'm even happy to change the title.

Finally, with it, and happy-ish.

7 comments:

  1. So many people don't realize how much work goes into writing a book. Thanks for spelling it out for them. It's definitely not a one or two draft job.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're so right! I'm astonished at the work that went into 'A Discovery of Witches', for example (similar in genre to my books). So much research as well as rewrites! Thanks for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm really enjoying your posts, and I have started to read 'A Discovery of Witches' - but I am still undecided about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Kate. I stuck with it to the end, but I did find it predictable if well imagined. But I enjoyed the historical background! It's just, a beautiful vampire/human woman combo - we have seen that a lot recently. Don't plain/boring/poor people become vampires?

      Delete
  4. Great post. I don't think many people come off with a sparkling and amazing first draft. I need to learn to wait to edit the individual lines at the very end of the editing process. New follower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny, I'm better at the little tweaks it's the big ones I struggle with. I've met people who really do fantastic, edited-as-they-go-along drafts, but I can only do it the daft way I do it. Following your blog too!

      Delete
  5. A novel is an amazingly complicated process! You really broke it down well.

    ReplyDelete