Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finished: Now the real work begins

Last Sunday, I finished a novel I began in May. As I write this blog, I am entrenched in the grind of editing the manuscript—all 308 pages lay before me.

So now the real work begins. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I edit laboriously during the composition process. That’s the Type-A personality in me. Each time I finish a scene, I (irrationally) feel that it is ready to be typeset (only to occasionally find, seventy pages later, the scene isn’t needed at all).

I know many writers who simply bang out a blunt object version of a draft and then fine tune it later. I’m not that way. The result is that it takes me months to a year to produce a finished draft. This lag time means that when I go back to edit, I reread scenes that were written up to nine months earlier, scenes that I haven’t even tinkered with in three or four months.

Right now I’m combing the latest manuscript, looking for inconsistencies. But I’m also adding things. Since I write knowing only what will happen a scene or two ahead, it is only after I’m done that I know the Who and the Why of the book. Thus, during the revision process, I can also lay appropriate clues and make sure I play fair with the reader.

As an aside, I have edited two ways: composing on the computer, printing the manuscript, and going through it with red pen in hand; I have also tried going paperless, composing and editing on the computer. It may not be green, but making final edits on a printout is the way to go.

These are my thoughts on revision. I’d love to hear what my colleagues and our readers say.


Dana King said...

I'm one of those who likes to get a first draft out there, then revise the hell out of it. In fact, I just finished reading over the entire first draft and making notes of the WIP last night. I'll probably do a total of six or seven drafts, each focusing on a specific thing. (Plot, description, character voices, beginnings and ending of chapters, etc.) It's tedious, but it works for me, as ideas for improvements tend to come to me over time, so knowing each draft needs only to get incrementally better lets me sleep at night.

Rick Blechta said...

I use a blue pen.


Hannah Dennison said...

The first draft or "getting the words down" draft is the most excruciating and miserable time for me. I am a bear to live with. But, once I have that first draft, I perk up a little and edit, edit, edit. I find it's important to print the whole thing out and scribble all over the paper. I love to hear other writer's processes.

Donis Casey said...

I have done it every one of those ways. In fact, I seem to do something different for every book. My usual process has been to get the first draft out and revise beaucoup times. For this book, I seem to be revising as I go. I'm also doing a lot more hand writing than usual. It's unexplainable to me.