Each year during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), hardy authors from around the world challenge themselves to writing a 50,000-word novel. No editing, no daydreaming–just writing. This past November, participants clocked up a total of 2,147,483,647 words.
So I guess this means thousands of just-completed manuscripts are ready to shoot into the inboxes of agents and editors. As someone who used to submit prematurely and paid the price (insta-rejection), take my advice—don’t send your book now that you’ve got a beginning, middle and–yay!–end. Not yet. You Nano folk have earned yourselves a break. Relax! Let the book hibernate for as long as you can; a week at the very least. A year-long separation is even better. If you can barely remember the names of your main characters after a while, that’s a good sign it’s safe to jump back into the pages.
I’m always experimenting with new ways to revise/edit my work. Sometimes I do several reads–one to see if the story hangs okay, another time to concentrate on characterisation, yet another pass to check the mechanics like punctuation, spelling and grammar. Then I arm myself with chocolate and get stuck into revising. Soon enough, I’m thoroughly sick of the book and can’t wait to start on something new.
This is my current editing routine:
- Print out the book. Read the book and at the same time, write a mini-synopsis for each scene and/or chapter. Plot a timeline of events. Jot down anything that jumps out, like repetitions and inconsistencies. Don’t fix anything until I’ve completed the first read-through.
- Flesh out descriptions, inject strong verbs, add tension, beef up the emotion. Strike unnecessary words and speech tags. Weed out weak writing. Does every scene advance the plot? Does the story even make sense? Is my heroine a dingbat? My hero a sap?
- Grammar and spellcheck. Verify facts.
- Let it rest again, but maybe not as long as that initial hibernation period. Read it, tweak it, then pass it on to critique partner/s for further dissection.
If you’re a writer, how many drafts do you typically suffer through before you think the book is ready for submission? What are your editing tips?