Writing

My Editing Process

Two weeks ago, I posted about my writing process. This was originally going to be one GIANT post, but at some point, readers lose interest. It also made sense to me to break this up into before the end and after the end for simplicity’s sake. If you haven’t read the first post, you can do so here.

The End? Nope. Editing Time.

So the writing process typically takes me anywhere from 4-6 months, depending on how long the story is and how long it took for me to get past the beginning stage to start fully drafting. This is why I try to get the gooey beginning part started while finishing up another book if I can.

From there is the major editing stage. Something I started doing a few books back (I think while writing Selkie Cove) is to stop at the 33% to 50% mark and do some major edits early. This way, I tidy up the beginning, I make sure the characterization makes sense, and reacquaint myself with the beginning of the story and early stakes before moving on. This helps me a lot in terms of consistency, especially because it takes me longer to write the first half than the second half. Also, remember that I edit as I go anyway, so my book isn’t terribly messy after I’ve done the minor tidies throughout and the more major tidy at the halfway point.

Big Picture Edits

When I finish the entire book, it is time to do big picture edits. Typically, I don’t have anything too monumental because I edit as I go and do that 50% edit, but I do often have a list of things I need to fix or change but didn’t feel like doing while writing. I’m not someone who usually has to rewrite their entire book from scratch or move too much or insert whole scenes. This is probably because I go so slowly and have a lot of built in thinking time. An example of what I might fix is making sure character descriptions make sense, deleting unnecessary dialogue or lines of description, reorganizing scene breaks in a chapter to make it more dynamic/flow better, breaking a chapter in a new place, beefing up description if it seems lacking, etc. If I spot typos along the way, those get fixed as well.

Beta Readers and Round 2

Next, I send the book off to a beta reader if I have someone who is willing to take a look. I don’t always anymore, so if I don’t, then I put it aside for a few days while I work on something else and then dive into round 2 of edits. If I have a beta reader, I will still dive into round 2, but I may need to do another round of edits with their feedback. If anyone hasn’t heard of a beta reader, it’s typically a trusted friend or critique partner who is willing to give you feedback on your work. At this point, my hope is that their feedback won’t include major changes. As with any feedback, you should listen to what your beta reader(s) have to say, especially if more than one person tells the same thing, but if their feedback goes against what you’re trying to accomplish or just feels wrong in your gut, don’t use it.

Round 2 edits are line-level edits. Making sure things sound good, they’re clear, everything makes sense, etc. Smoothing lines, breaking out the thesaurus or double checking that words aren’t anachronistic. Inevitably, I will miss something, but I try. At this point (or after beta feedback), the book should be in pretty good shape and there shouldn’t be any massive changes.

Round 3 Edits (where the most weeping occurs)

Round 3 edits are copy edits. I tend to do this twice because I miss typos no matter how hard I try and something always manages to make it into the book, usually more than one. I read chapters out of order at this point to keep my brain from numbing out and not reading the words. I also use Microsoft Word’s speak feature to have it read me back my work a paragraph at a time to catch typos. It will miss homophones, though, so if you know that’s a problem you have, be like me and make a list of words you might screw up and use ctrl F to find them and double check (that and the verb tenses for lie/lay). Once I have finished rereading my work for what feels like the 800th time, we’re ready to format.

I will not go into the formatting process here, but I do my own formatting for paperbacks and ebooks. The good thing is, putting the book in either form also makes it easier to catch typos, so if you feel like you’re eyes are crossing looking at your computer screen, print it off on paper or read it on your phone/tablet to catch errors better. The change is format seems to help a lot.

I will admit that copy editing is my least favorite part. By the end, my eyes feel like their bleeding and knowing that despite reading my work so many times I still will miss things hurts. If you have enough money to do so, I highly recommend sending your work to a copy editor to find all those typos and grammar errors for you.

A Final Word

But yes, dear reader, we have come to the end of the writing and editing process. I’m sure some of you are appalled that my process goes against the usual advice you see online for writing books. Write a lot, write fast, but if you are like me and thinking about writing 30k, let alone 50k, in a month makes you feel ill, this may be a better process for you.

I will also add that I am a monogamous writer, meaning that I typically write one book at a time until I hit the later editing phases. Then, I might have an edit going and the early drafting process started. In order to keep my characters consistent, I need to be able to keep my projects separate in order to mold the best story I can. Some people just aren’t built for writing 3 things at once or writing 2k a day, and that’s totally fine. The point is that you need to find what works for you.

My process has evolved over time to become a process versus me just doing my best, feeling it out. I’m still feeling it out with projects, and over time, I’m sure how I write will change too, but as of 2022, this is what works best for me.

See you all next week!

Writing

My Writing Process

This week’s post was inspired by Magen Cube’s newsletter, Notes on Monstrosity, where they discuss their writing process. Finding out how other writers writer is something I find incredibly interesting, to the point that I will watch Youtube videos of writers trying famous authors’ processes or daily schedules. It’s fascinating how what works for one author would probably trample my brain into exhausted dust. In my creative classes, it’s a topic my students ask about and how they can best streamline the process. I’d like to make it clear that you will need to figure that out on your own and try what different writers do or venture out on your own and see what your brain jives with.

Some of you are going to read my process and be mad. So be it. My process is not what is preached by many writers. I do not hurdle to the finish line as fast as I can because, frankly, I am not fond of cleaning up the mess after. That’s it. I’m lazy. I do not have the mental fortitude to clean up the same draft 6+ times because I decide to speed through it the first time and now have a 100+ things I need to remember to fix AND do copy edits and such after. That’s not how this is going to go, so if you’re looking for how to write a book in 30 days or write 5k a day or whatever else the hustle culture is pedaling these days, this is not the blog post you seek.

Consider, I have written and published 7 (going on 8) books this way, so it works for me *shrugs*

The Beginning

Typically, my ideas start off with two characters or a single character, and everything sort of grows out of that. I spend a lot of time at the beginning feeling out who they are, what’s wrong with them, what they want, what their core personality is. From there, I think about how these characters would meet and interact because that will be the majority of the story. Then, I get stuck for like 2 weeks trying to figure out the conflict/plot. How do I figure this out? Usually thinking how I can best traumatize these characters. At the same time, I tend to start making a Pinterest board because I’m a very visual person. Once I start throwing together what they look like and where they are, more concrete aesthetic and plot things start to gel for me.

During this part, I’ll often try to start the story to better feel out the characters and have a few false starts. This happens more often with brand new characters than when I’m adding on to a pre-existing series, which makes sense because with new characters, this is more exploratory writing, not word count writing. During this early stage, I need to remember to be kind to myself because my first month or so of working on a book is SLOW. There is a lot of feeling in the dark until things make sense. At some point during this process, I can mentally see the ending or something toward the end to work towards. With that in mind, we get into the drafting stage.

Drafting

I want to make it very clear that I am a “slow” writer. Slow in comparison to the people who can bang out a 60k book in 2 months and have it ready for publication 2 months later. My books are usually 90k+, and I only write 500 to 1500 words a day with the latter being a *really* good day or me playing catch up because I skipped a day or two due to not feeling good. My monthly word counts average around 15k with the first month or two of a new draft often having less. Early on, I tend to write in 20 minute sprints, something akin to the Pomodoro Method. It forces me to write and move forward when I’m feeling hesitant.

But here is my cardinal sin, according to other writers. I EDIT AS I GO.

Yes, dear reader, I go back and edit what I wrote during my previous session as a warm-up. I do this because

a) I am an underwriter, so I need to add more detail. Often, after I’ve written a scene, that detail becomes clearer, and it makes more sense for me to add it now while it’s still fresh in my mind than 2 months from now when I don’t remember what the hell the room is supposed to look like. My brain is like a sieve or a browser with 25 tabs open and you can’t figure out where the music is coming from. I try not to over-complicate it if I can.

b) It’s less work for me later. Future Kara doesn’t appreciate it when Past Kara leaves cryptic messages in a draft that make no sense. [ADD CHAIR] For what, Past Kara?? Why and for what purpose do they need a chair?? I know some people can do this, I cannot. It just frustrates me. Then again, I am not a perfectionist, and as someone is who at least somewhat full of themselves, as many artists are, I tend to read my work and think it’s pretty good and editing it is just tumbling that shiny rock further. Ego is key for this process to work. I am self-conscious about many things; my writing is not one of them.

Once I have reacquainted myself with where I left off, it is time to write. As I said, I tend to write 500-1500 words a day, and this is either done in the morning around 10 AM or late at night with little in between. It’s when my brain works best.

Outlining or the Lack of

You may have noticed I didn’t mention making an outline. That is because I don’t make a traditional outline before I start writing. I do make a retroactive outline covering what I’ve already written, so I can go back and reference it as I move forward, which has been VERY helpful to me. I have a blog post about it here. Something I have been doing with The Reanimator’s Heart is using Sarra Canon’s Three Act Structure outline, which is based off Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and a few other structure books. I have been filling in scenes I think fit into the general structure to help me figure out the order of things and where I’m going, but I do this one act at a time. Act 1, then Act 2 part 1, Act 2 part 2, then Act 3 and not a moment ahead of time if I can help it. It is a very loose outline that is subject to change, but seeing everything laid out helps me keep the flow going.

Ironically, if I’m writing a short story, I tend to make a loose outline, but I think this is because, at most, I can hold about 30k words worth of direction in my head. Beyond that, my brain gets overwhelmed and sort of melts. My process is avoiding the brain melting stage at all costs.

To be continued…

Originally, this was going to be one MASSIVE blog post, but I have decided to break this up right here before the editing process. Truthfully, the drafting process and editing process feel very different to me, so it’s a good place to stop for now. In 2 weeks, the post on my editing process will come out, so I hope you will come back to read it.

Writing

The Writing Process

One of the members of my Facebook author page asked if I would do a post about my writing process.  After I saw it, I sat back and scratched my head.  What was my writing process?  Like many things, when you live with it, it isn’t nearly as obvious as it is to others.

 

As with all writing, it begins with an idea.  Sometimes it comes as a smattering of dialogue or description while other times it comes as a topic or idea.  For The Earl of Brass, it began with the idea of a man needing automaton parts in order to survive, but this rapidly evolved into a man with a missing arm who needs a prosthesis.  In the beginning, I typically free write and put down anything that comes to mind.  Sometimes it becomes the first chapter of a novel while other times it gets completely rewritten or discarded.  Once an idea beginnings to take form, I make an idea map or an outline of what events will happen in the coming paragraphs.  For flexibility’s sake, I usually only plan five or so chapters ahead at any given time.  Typically, my characters are wayward and do what they want, so I need to alter my plans to fit them.  Forcing an agenda on my characters never goes well.  Sometimes when I have ideas but am not sure what order they should be in, I make index cards and lay them out.  I will move them around and ask my best friend/beta reader and see what she thinks to ensure it’s logical to others. Continue reading “The Writing Process”

Writing

The Editor’s Eye for the Writing Guy

Whenever I tell other writers that I have written and published a novel, they often ask me about the editing process.  For many, editing seems like a daunting and seemingly insurmountable task, but with the help of a beta reader or two, the process can become much easier.  I would like to share my process.  It is far from perfect, but it’s what I usually do and what has worked for me.

There are certain things that are needed before going into the editing process: a finished novel, an open mind, a critical eye, and the drive to get it done. 

  1. A finished novel is fairly self-explanatory.  I suggest it being finished only because I can sit and edit constantly and not move forward for months.  If you think of things you know need to be fixed, make a list and keep it somewhere safe where you won’t lose it (been there, lost several).
  2. Many writers see their novels are their children. No one wants to hear their children being criticized, but when it is in their best interest, you may want to listen to your beta readers and what they suggest.  You don’t need to always listen to what they say, sometimes it won’t work or it’s a personal preference, but be open about fixing things. Try not to get too attached to a certain phrase or metaphor.  In the editing process, as much as you love that line, you may need to cut it or tweak it.  I clung to an analogy comparing England to dingy mashed potatoes but realized the entire chapter needed to be reworked and obviously, the potatoes had to go.
  3. A critical eye goes hand-in-hand with an open-mind.  You need to be able to look at your own work and see the problems in it. Where are you lacking? Where is there too much? If you wrote the story over a long period of time, did you style change from beginning to end? There is no way that after a first or second draft your book is ready for publishing.  Look harder for mistakes and issues that need tinkering with.  One cannot always rely on their beta readers to find every issue, so being self-critical will definitely help when perfecting it before it heads into your readers’ hands.  As a reader, what would make you annoyed or want to change?
  4. Seeing a stack of two hundred and fifty pages laying on your table can be incredibly daunting.  How will you get through all of it with all your other life commitments?  My suggestion is to set a manageable goal for yourself each day or each week.  You won’t always accomplish it and other days you will exceed it, but just try to press on and get through it.  if you are having a day where you reread the same line over and over, step back and do something else for a while or try reading a different chapter. No one said you had to edit the book cover to cover, you can skip around.

My process for editing, can be a long one and a repetitive one to many, but it’s like a rock tumbler.  Each revolution through the story polishes it more and more.

  1. My first editing process (if I hold off until the end of the book) is making the edits I have on my list, things I know need to be fixed, which can include changing characters’ ages or descriptions, changes in continuity or style, passages you have been eying since after you wrote them. I may go through this process more than once just to make sure I got everything.  **As a tip, I like to print out my entire manuscript, then make changes with a red pen by writing in the margins or attaching pieces of paper where I have rewritten chunks of a chapter or scene.  If you tend to miss your changes, go over the pen with a highlighter (I prefer pink) to make the changes stand out.
  2. Leave your draft alone for a while.  Putting away, get some distance from it and make it so you don’t recite the memorized phrases instead of actually reading them.  If you haven’t given your book to a few people to read, you should do so now. Their feedback will hopefully be helpful during your next session. Make sure they will give you honest feedback and most importantly, they will actually do it. Explain to them what you want them to look out for and be specific, write it down even.
  3. Read your story, make notes on areas that need correcting or altering and if any areas are boring.  As you go through and tweak things (mine tends to be wording and adding more since I’m an underwriter. If you are an over-writer, you may need to prune your manuscript), highlight them and mark them in a distinctive pen on your manuscript. Take the feedback from your beta readers and see what they suggest.  If it should be changed, do it now. If you are unsure, save it and wait until you are all done and reread the story again to decide if it needs to be done.  Typically, I go through this editing phase about twice. When doing historical fiction or anything that needs research, make sure you fact-check what you are unsure of still.
  4. Leave it for a week or two. Now, reread it. This is going to (hopefully) be lighter editing.  Read it aloud.  Are there words that need changing? Is any of the dialogue stiff or awkward? Sometimes it may be beneficial to have someone read it to you in order to catch awkward parts that sound fine in your head, and during the reading process, you may also come across typos. 
  5. The final stretch! I call this typo time. I was a writing tutor, so I am familiar with most rules of grammar and can correct most of my work (I still need to look up lay v. lie and a few other rules that always need refreshing). If you have certain rules you know trip you up, make an index card of the rule to keep with you while you go through it again, but if you would rather have someone else deal with grammar, I would suggest finding a proofreader online or a friend who is willing to take a look at it. I go over my work with a fine-tooth comb and often hand it off to my mom who is good at catching mistakes I miss.  At this point, you are done fiddling with your text hopefully. Word changes may still occur, but remember the point is fine polishing, not overhauling. If you are still unhappy with it, I would go back to step 3 or 4 for another round or two of edits.

The point of this post is hopefully to empower you to be your own editor.  The input of others is important, but first and foremost, you should be writing a book you want to read. Take the process into your hands and be self-critical without being self-defeating.  It is your work, your book, and while an editor is a great tool, you should ultimately be responsible for perfecting your writing as it is a process through which you will grow to understand your flaws and what you need to do to become an even better writer.

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