The first step with any edit is to re-read everything you’ve already written.
I tend to go through a lot of varying emotions during that initial re-read.
It’s an ominous start because while I remember writing, I always have a feeling that the writing is crap. I don’t know what I’m getting into as I open it up and start on page one. Will this be awful? Will I have to toss it all and start over? Will I be surprised that it isn’t awful? Will I never want to write again?
Going into this re-read, I knew what to expect: the first half of what I wrote in November is really solid. The second half? Not so much. However, I was still surprised at just how solid that first half is. Sure, it’s wordy – I was trying to write 50K words in a month, after all – and slightly repetitive, but you know what? It’s really good. Like, really good. Like, even though I wrote it and knew what was happening, I still felt like it’s a page-turner and felt invested in the characters and the story. In fact, re-reading it is fueling my drive to want to finish it.
During a re-read, I do minor editing. Mostly for my typos and awkward word choices and unnecessary sentences or words. In the first half, I ended up cutting a lot that just didn’t need to be there anymore. However, I didn’t see any major edits that I need to do. I could probably add another scene or two, but I don’t want to add a scene just to up the word count. It needs to make sense and move the story along and right now, I’m not sure what that would be.
Then I got to the second half of what I have written.
To be honest, I was fully prepared to do a little crying and a lot of whining and cutting out a bunch of it and starting all over. But you know what? It’s not as bad as I thought it was!
Is the second half as strong as the first? No, it’s not. But I know why. I don’t normally outline but since this challenge was a word count one, I didn’t want any chance of getting unnecessarily stuck about what to do next, so before November 1, I drew up some notes that ended up getting me only midway through the month. So whereas the first half of the month was planned, the second half was, for the most part, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.
It ended up working out in that I made it to 50K, but as I’ve said before, I didn’t finish the novel. And I ran out of steam. And I started to repeat myself because I had no idea where to go next. And that shows. I need to do some serious editing with the second half of the novel.
However, while I hate editing so any large amounts of it usually ends up discouraging me, all is not bleak. Even though the second half isn’t as good as the first half, it isn’t bad. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed reading the second half even though I was wary of it. It’ll need fixing, yes, and it’ll need cutting back, and it’ll need adding to, but it’s not as bad as I feared.
I’ve actually already started on the next step. Because my strategy of minor edits while re-reading isn’t really doable with the second half that needs so much more work, I realized I needed to do that outlining thing again and try and figure out just where this novel is going before I continue. I scribbled an outline based on what I already wrote, then made a lot of arrows and circles to “move things around,” and then I jotted down about a half dozen different possible endings, each one with a list of 2 or 3 questions or comments. (Can you tell I have no idea how to end this book?)
Now that my re-read and impulse outlining is done, my next step is to actually edit the dang thing.