This post itself will be edited, I am certain, thus making it so recursive that it generates a digital black hole and pulls the entire Internet into itself. Until then…
Everyone edits differently. Worse, everyone edits differently at different times of their authorial lives, making the title of this post unimaginably pretentious. Still, I’ll leave the title there, otherwise, the above observation will be meaningless.
Writing is a creative, right-brain process, whereas editing is a analytic, left-brain process. You have to analyze the creative stuff you wrote, ensuring that you did hit the marks you meant to hit in your plot & structure plans, while at the same time trying to match the mood you had when you created the first draft. It’s a process that’s highly analytical, but with a creative side. But enough with the airy-fairy. Let’s look at something definite.
I am faced with a 173,000 word, 775 page stack of raw, first draft, stuff. At the end of this sausage-making operation, a 70,000 polished manuscript is due to appear. How?
I work in ‘passes’ That is, I will review the manuscript with one particular aim in mind: sharpening conflict, or making dialog realistic. But that’s after I actually have a manuscript. Hence, Pass 1: Making a manuscript from first draft.
When I write first draft, I try to go start to end, but a lot of times, I’ll hit a dead end, or will go off on a tangent. All of these deviations must be brought in line to create a coherent manuscript. I go back to my novel structure checklist: What was I trying to do with this work? What is the central theme? Define the First, Second, and Third Acts, and make sure they comprise 25-50-25 percent of the work. Select the draft material that addresses the goals of each act, and insert it in the appropriate spot.
That’s the first pass. If this were building a house, then the novel structure checklist is the foundation and major structural elements. At the end of the first pass, all of the walls are up and the roof is on. At the end of the first pass, I have the working draft of my novel. Sure, there will be a lot of internal tweaking and rearrangement. Maybe a porch gets added on, or a bay window installed. But 98 percent of the final content is in there, and this forms the basis of everything that comes next.
Next up: Pass two.