Oh good gravy I haven’t updated this thing in over a year. Hi! How’s it going. I bet y’all missed getting email notifications from me about rambling blog posts, didn’t you. For the record, I think in the future I’m going to try to do a less rambly more long-form version of the twitter screeds I’ve been writing, which may at least keep me writing regular blog posts since I abandoned this blog thinking I have nothing to talk about.
(This was a blatant falsehood on someone’s part. Probably my brain lying to me again.)
So. Someone asked me if I could describe how I do line edits, and it looks like I’ve done a post on selecting an editor or when to know an editor is right for you, and a post (mostly) about the emotional weight and journey of editing, but not how I do line edits. So here is a very rough nuts, bolts, and widgets post about what happens after I finish a first draft.
Step 1: Fall over. Don’t write. Watch TV. Paint minis. Sew something. Knit or cross-stitch. The time immediately after having finished something is a time of putting that part of the brain on standby to recharge. If it’s a short story typically this means an hour or so of television, a book, doing something else for the rest of the day. If it’s a novel I do something else for the rest of the day and work on something else for the next six weeks or so. I try not to pick up a novel for at least six weeks after the first draft. It helps you relax, recharge, get some distance, let those neurons have a break from firing off ideas all the time.
Step 2: Fortify before reading. I get comfortable, make sure I haven’t skipped any meals recently and have had food at all the right times, make sure I have water. I want to eliminate all possible outside sources of malcontent so I don’t mistake being dehydrated for the headache that comes from incoherent writing. And I try not to eat a lot of sugar or otherwise get worked up in ways unhealthy for me. That’s not good either.
Step 3: Re-read. Sometimes I don’t re-read the whole thing, sometimes I skim parts (and note what I’ve skimmed and why, because if I’m bored a reader will be too, conversely if I’m skimming because I’ve already re-read that part umpteen million times that may be a good thing) but I re-read. And my best Editrix reads over too, not always simultaneous, and gives me a pile of notes either in email or at the beginning of the document for me to go over. So part of this re-read is reading her notes and jotting down how to implement her ideas or if I have other ideas how to fix it.
Step 4: Consult. The first rewrite isn’t always a complete tear-down (sometimes it is but thankfully these days if that happens it’s only because the book is ten years old) so generally what I’m doing here is talking with the Editrix and saying okay, so how much parrot do I need to put in, I can include the parrot here, here, and here. Or, hey this is suddenly very topical, I could redo the ending and adjust it so that there’s this private discussion instead of a public shaming. Or what have you. Most of the time I’m consulting on the major edits so I can work them in as I rewrite on the minor ones.
Step 5: Line edits. Now I’m finally going through the novel line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and fixing small things like phrasing, typos, punctuation, run-on sentences, unclear sentences, unclear antecedents, etc etc. Passive voice to active, or more rarely but it still happens, active voice to passive. Editrix keeps a list of words or phrases I overuse to beat me with periodically, so I get to rephrase to take those out too. While I’m doing line edits I also add in larger chunks of text, or sometimes take it out, to deal with those major or as we call them macro edits. Any text that are a sentence or longer get added in in a different color so Editrix can see what’s changed and decide if that’s better or if I should go back to what I just took out. Deletes are marked with a strikeout before they’re fully deleted.
Step 6: Repeat the last two steps basically. Consult, see if there are any more macro edits to be done, if the story’s in good shape for the overall construction of it, if all characters and action are properly paced. If all Chekhov’s guns have gone off. (And if you don’t know what that is Google or I will be happy to explain.) If there’s more macro edits, we do another round of that and then another round of line edits because there are inevitably large chunks of text that need line edits.
Step 7: Editrix and I both do one last read-over once it’s done for small line edits, the last fiddly bits, and take out all strikeouts and fill in all bracket notes. Simultaneous to this or just prior there will be a re-read for timeline check, and depending on what’s happening in the novel there might also be a closer read of some scenes for choreography and blocking. Just to make sure one character isn’t moving an extra hand they don’t have. This is actually the last step before publication, so when I talk about clearing line edits, this is usually what I mean. Last lingering strikeouts, the final sticky typos that were somehow missed all previous versions, bracket notes [bracket notes example here] that I haven’t fixed or cleared because I have no idea what to do with them. Usually these are names of people or places, I hate that part.
Step 8: … party? The novel’s pretty much done now, so it’s time to party before I realize I have to write promo copy in five different lengths, find cover art, so on and so forth. Groan. The perils of self-publishing.