Tuesday, June 19, 2012

There's more than one way to edit a novel

As the old saying goes, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

And, in writing, there is more than one way to edit a novel--or just plain edit your story in general.

Keep in mind, these are my techniques.  They may be similar or a far cry from your methods.  Don't worry.  Your way may be just fine, if it works for you.  If you want to explore other avenues of editing, feel free to try these out.

A few years ago, my editing consisted of taking the entire novel, reading each chapter 3-4 times, and only when I was at the end of the novel did I go back and make the necessary changes to the hard copy.  This was a long and tedious process, thereby taking the better part of a year just to get through one round of editing.  When the editing round was complete, I'd usually have to do it all over again.  Either that, or I'd go on to another book, thinking the one I just completed was fine for publication.

Was I wrong!

How I do it now is similar, but with a simple twist: instead of taking an entire novel at a time, I take 2-4 chapters (they need a common thread or else I'll just do the chapter by itself) and thorough read each scene within a chapter at least 3 times before moving on--this was a technique borrowed from the late and great John Gardner.  When the chapters were complete, I'd make the necessary changes, print the hard copy of those chapters, and start the process all over again with those same chapters until very few changes were made.

I don't move on until those chapters are as good as I can foresee.  By editing this way, I dig deeper into a scene and add (or remove) things that need to be changed.  With each read, I seem to dig deeper and deeper into the scene or chapter.  I may find that on the third read, I huge chunk needs to be taken out.  That's okay.  After reading it that many times, I dig deep enough to see what way is the best for the novel.

Do you have any special editing techniques you'd like to share?  How different are they from mine?  Please comment on your methods below.

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