Editing Hell – The Saga Continues
It’s time for an editing update! This was originally in my last newsletter, but since it’s not a picture of my cat (I mean, there WAS a Rambo in the newsletter, but it wasn’t the MAIN feature) and not a random ramble or all about the poll, I’ve decided to post it on my website too. And since I’m feeling lazy today, I’ll be copy pasting it straight from my newsletter, only removing the poll about the rage bone and my blood, sweat and tears because I haven’t figured out how to do polls here yet.
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Here we go:
Those of you who’ve been stalking—err, FOLLOWING me for a while, know that my last, insanely long and horrible editing phase was the red pen of doom, death, and destruction. That came after A MILLION other phases and is one of my last ones (it WAS my last one for Hunted, but book 2 has a lot more going on to keep track of so unfortunately, the hell-loop continues).
After red pen
I’m not going to re-hash everything I do when I red-pen, but I should note that when I do this type of editing, I’m VERY close to the story. Sometimes, I work on a scene for DAYS, which means I only have my notes to rely on when it comes to pacing and arcs and things like that. It’s intense and consuming.
So when I was done red-penning it up, I knew I needed to do another read through to ensure I hadn’t ducked up (autocorrect has won; I no longer fight it) anything with my edits… SPOILER ALERT: I totally had.
Anyway, I took a week off (distance is important, it’s easy to miss stuff if the manuscript doesn’t get a chance to breathe) and then I dove into my FINAL read-through.
Final read through
I transferred the book to my kindle and started reading. Some scenes were better than I remembered, some were worse, and some were unfinished because Past Erica is an evil birch who lives to make my life miserable.
I took notes ON the kindle (249 notes to be exact—do you know how horrible it is to type on that clumsy thing?) and bigger notes on my phone (because at least my fingers sorta know how to make the words appear there). 70% of the kindle notes were spelling errors, bad sentences, missing words, and weird commas. The other 30% were bigger things like a scene needing a complete re-edit, a character arc not working, places where the scene order has to be changed or something needs to be added.
My phone notes were all big things, mostly companion to the kindle notes (kindle “marks the spot” so I can easily find it in my scrivener file; the phone notes explains in depth what’s needed so my kindle doesn’t get thrown into the wall in a fit of technology-sucks rage).
For fun, here’s a couple of Past Erica’s kindle notes:
- Bad. (this is the most common one—you’ve probably seen it when I’ve shared screenshots of my scrivener file).
- Insert name (because even though this is draft 100000, I’ve left someone nameless because naming people is a horror reserved for the Futurest of all Ericas).
- Wolves can’t talk… (cause, apparently, I’d forgotten that fact during draft 1-10000 PLUS during red pen edits).
- Zeroes aren’t O’s (Birch Face Supreme apparently thought that needed explaining)
- Word too strong for current emotional arc (words have different strengths, did you know? I didn’t.)
Fun, right? Past Erica sure is helpful…
Anyway, my bigger notes can’t be shared cause they’re FULL of spoilers.
The dreaded notes
I spent 3 days making sense of all the notes and making a plan for the changes that were needed. I have a word document where all the “bigger” issues are listed, what scenes they affect, and what is needed to fix them, and a convoluted excel sheet that I’ll be linking after the trilogy is completed—just in case this email wasn’t painful enough for you.
So… What’s left?
I have three scenes that I have to add/write from scratch (meaning there will be more words—YAY—but also more edits—BOO), two in the middle and one at the very end. I have two scenes that are half written (meaning Past Erica Birch Face Supreme got tired/impatient/struck by a fit of evil and decided to leave me to finish what she couldn’t be bothered to complete), and a couple that need another round of red pen cause they’re BAD.
I also have several scenes where I need to add things to improve the story (in the last week I’ve added 500 words to one scene, 100 to another, and almost 1000 to a third while going through my notes), but more on that below.
And I have to resolve ALL my scrivener comments.
I’m GUESSING all of this will take about a month from now? Plus minus a week or two. And then the book is FINALLY going to betas (which I don’t think will take much time at all considering how much editing I’ve been doing—if I’m wrong, I may go on a murder spree so please delete this email after you’ve read it as it COULD be considered proof of my upcoming criminal activity).
Example of an important fix
One of the things that pull me out of a story is lack of emotional authenticity, which happens a lot if the motivation/choices of a character doesn’t seem to make sense.
The thing is, as the author, I know what every character wants, why they want it, what drives their actions and emotions and everything they do, think, and feel. But, since I know the characters so well, sometimes when I’m writing I’ll forget that my readers aren’t sitting on all the same information.
And that’s kinda important to remember.
When I did my read through, I noticed that one of Hope’s choices came across as abrupt and not with the same authenticity that actually drove it. The reason for this was that I had forgotten to show part of her motivation when writing the story (since the characters feel so alive to me, it’s hard to remember that they’re not real people and my readers don’t know every single aspect of them the way I do).
To fix that, I have to go back through a couple of scenes and actually give words to some things that were happening in the background that I just assumed everyone would be able to telekinetically discover by rooting around my brain (if you do decide to root around in there, be careful, it’s messy as HELL and filled with anxious stressmuffin worries).
More on Motivation (warning, overexplanation given)
Because I’m obsessed with this, I’m going to make up an example. Feel free to skip it if you’re bored (but never tell me, I’ll come over to your house and throw blueberries at your face).
If a character seems to lack motivation or reason for a decision, it’s generally not because it doesn’t exist, but because the author has failed to communicate it to the reader.
Let’s say we have a story about a girl who wants to save her kingdom from an evil sorcerer, but she lacks the magic to do so. On her quest to gain said magic, she’s captured by the enemy and put in a tiny, dark room with a yawning, seemingly endless pit in the middle.
She’s huddled into the corner of the room, her feet touching the edge, and when she finally dares to look down, all she sees is more darkness. She’s pretty sure she’ll die if she falls in.
But after only a day of being confined to this dark room, she ends up jumping anyway, and instead of dying, she finds a well of magic at the bottom. This magic is exactly what she needed to save her kingdom, and now she can escape and fight the final battle.
As a reader, you’d say “Wow, that makes NO SENSE. It feels like the author just made the character jump because she needed the magic and it would end the book. Why would the heroine decide to jump when she thought it likely she’d die?”
But would you still have felt the same way if the author had shown you a glimpse of the heroine’s past—a past where she’d been tortured by being confined to small, dark spaces, kept so long her mind threatened to shatter, and when she finally escaped, she’d made a vow to never again let that happen, because if it did, this time her mind WOULD go and that, to her, is a fate worse than death? What if earlier in the book, the heroine had been accidentally locked in a closet and completely lost her mind? What if she’d seen someone she loved have her mind broken, and it was the most horrible thing she’d ever seen? Coupled with all this, the fact that she chose death over breaking—jumping into the pit even though she thought it was likely she’d die—would make sense.
If this is all a part of the characters past, what is actually shown during the course of the book would be the difference between a read that is compelling and makes sense, and one that feels flat and full of plotholes.
Every single choice a character makes needs to make sense. Not just to the character, but to the reader too. And to do that, motivations need to be established on the page, and not just in the author’s head.
Did you read the whole thing?
If yes I’m both shocked and awed! Hopefully your head remained firmly on your shoulders during this escapade, and did not do any of the exploding stuff we covered last time. I also hope you found SOME kind of enjoyment in this–but if you didn’t… I’m SORRY that I subjected you to the horrors that is editing!