Editing Hell

It’s time for an update! This is going to be a long, looong wall of text, so strap yourselves in, bring forth the coffee, and peel your tired self off the floor (wait… you don’t lie on the floor when you’re so tired you can barely move—is that just me?) and pay attention!

Are you ready?

Okay, so… I’m planning (hoping, praying, begging my characters) to have Assembly done at some point during the first half of this year. More on that below.

Anyway… People have expressed an interest in learning a little about my editing process (the process in which my soul dies a little each day), and since I’m editing Assembly at the moment, I thought I’d give you some insight. Now, this whole thing below was originally sent as a two-part Newsletter. If you subscribed to my newsletter before the third of January this year and you didn’t receive the two emails, then that means the evil (EVIL) email providers have put my mail straight in your trash/junk/spam folder where it gets deleted after only a few days. So… whitelist my email or it will just keep happening (you’re missing out on so much, too)!

If you have not signed up but you want access to my crazy, sign up below.

Okay, I guess we’re ready. Below is the relevant text from the two emails sent about my editing.

Before the editing story begins…
…you need to know that I wrote the first draft of Hunted, Assembly, and (secret title of book 3) in one go. I did this mostly so that I could be sure there wouldn’t be any inconsistencies or plotholes between the books (and because I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to stop). This meant that by the time I started editing Hunted, it had been about a year since I’d written it (which again meant I’d forgotten a couple of things and made editing much harder). Of course, since I wrote the first draft of Assembly, I have also written (secret title of book 3) and edited Hunted. So about one year. And yes, I know this is not what you’re here for, but it’s important okay! I’m setting the stage for this masterfully woven editing story from hell.

Editing – Step 1: Now look what you did!
This aptly named step one (which is completed btw) is where I spent a week re-reading Assembly while highlighting in my kindle (yes, I moved the book to my kindle) and making big picture notes. Notes like: “This (secret thing) moves too fast, add (secret) scene here.” And, “This character needs to reveal a little more of themselves for this to make sense to anyone other than me.” – Stuff like this is needed because when I draft, it’s pretty rough. I basically write down what I see in my head, what I hear the characters saying (and sometimes they’re so loud that I write only the dialogue), and while that helps me stay true to the characters, it sometimes means scenes and motivation are missing for the reader because all these things are happening in the background, and while I know them, I haven’t written them down yet because I’ve been so busy following a particular part of the story.

This step is named “Now look what you did!” because I’m re-reading the book, having forgotten most the details, and while I enjoyed re-reading many parts of it, I was also left with this feeling of “oh my god there’s so much work to be done, past Erica you’re a total birch for not writing a cleaner draft, how the hell am I supposed to make this reader-ready before I turn 100???”

Editing – Step 2: Let’s make a game plan
You can probably guess, but this step is my planning (while crying big tears of despair) phase. For Assembly, I took a couple of days and made a list of how to get through the editing. First I wrote down what I needed to get done in January, and then I made a (way too demanding) daily schedule. Somehow, I’ve managed to stay on track despite a three-freaking-unholy-week-flu, but more on that (the January to do list, not my flu) next time..

I wouldn’t have minded putting all my editing steps in one email, but I’m chasing down a thousand words here, and I feel it may be overwhelming? Boring? A snooze fest—err, I mean a drool fest?

Editing – Step 3: Let the true torture commence
This is maybe the step I hate the most. It’s boring and horrible and menial, AND it takes for-ducking-ever.

Okay, remember the game plan? This is where I implement the first step, which is read the book SCENE BY SCENE and fill out an excel form (that I made myself) with all the information I need to keep, and all the changes I need to implement in the next editing pass. This can be anything from “add more setting to this scene” (because during my first draft, my “setting” consists of “they walked into the room. It was big.”), to “delete this storyline from every scene in the book and replace with this other storyline.” Sometimes the changes are HUGE, and I know I’m looking at a lot of re-writing, and other times they are small.

This step is boring, because I’ve already read the first draft carefully once, and now I have to do it AGAIN, and be even more attentive while adding my notes and preparing for the work to come.

It took me 16 days to do, with 5 scenes every day. But it’s an important step, because doing it like this, I see the full picture much easier, and it allows me to make sure nothing is rushed, and that everything ties together the way it’s supposed to.

Editing – Step 4: Don’t you wish you were dead?
Step 4 and step 5 tend to happen side by side (I’m currently on these two steps at the moment). Step 4 is where I make my big story edits (there are a lot of them). I call them “big story” because they have ripple effects. For example, if I’m removing an internal conflict, I have to go through all instances of the book where that conflict is touched upon, and I have to rewrite it to make sense without it. For Assembly, one of the changes I made had to do with a specific character arc, and it required several scene changes plus an additional scene to be added for it all to come together.

I also had to change a big thing because of something Ash suddenly did in book 3. Once all the books are released, I’ll tell you about how he just ripped the reins out of my hands and went off on his own.

Editing – Step 5: A brief respite
This step is better because here I get to add new scenes! Basically, I just follow my notes. Where I’ve noticed time gaps, or where I’ve forgotten to include a scene I meant to do, where I’ve noticed an arc moving too fast and needs another step before concluding, or where I feel the characters yelling for more attention—this is the step where I finally get to write them!

It’s fun fun fun!

Step 4 and 5 will probably take about a month to finish.

Editing – Step 6: Let loose the perfectionist
This is the step where I print out the entire book (and use all my paper, all my ink, and all my back up ink—if I go broke, it’s all because of the freakin’ ink) and red pen the whole thing.

I go scene by scene, first red penning every error, every inconstancy, every piece of bad writing (there’s a lot in my first draft), and everything that could be better. I make notes in the margins, and I cross out paragraphs that aren’t needed. Then I take my scene back to the computer, I put my red-penned-scene next to me, and I start editing.

Then I go back to the living room (where I do my red penning), and I do scene 2. And I do this until all the scenes are done. This takes about a month too.

Editing – Step 7: The end is in sight!
Now it’s time for betas. They get the book while I start working on the blurb. Hunted’s blurb took me FOREVER.

When I get my beta stuff back, I go through it and do any fixes/rewrites, and then I work through all the notes I’ve left myself that I’ve saved for last. This is mostly places where I need to tighten or make the writing better, but because it was very difficult, I decided to make it Future Erica’s problem. This never fails to piss Present Erica right off, and if she could go back in time and punch Past Erica, she would. Past Erica is a birch, you guys.

Editing – Step 8: So close!
This is when the book is sent to an editor. With Hunted I couldn’t afford it, but this time I’ve managed to put aside some moneys, and Assembly will experience the horror/joy of an editor’s touch!

Once I get it back from the editor, I’ll spend some time fixing up the issues, and then it’s off to the proofreader. Get it back, fix, and finally it’s time to format.

It takes me about 2 days to format, and once that’s done, it’s time to upload to Amazon—AAAH!

***End of Erica’s last editing rambles***

I hope you’re still awake. If you’re reading this, give me a sign of life. Email me, leave a comment, anything so I know I didn’t write this whole thing only to have everyone fall asleep while reading it, that would be *sob* horrible!


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