#amediting part 2

I’ve always agreed with the aphorism that good books are not written, they’re rewritten. All power to the elbows of those who can write once and publish. I’m not one of those writers. So how am I editing?

First I went through the draft as I did it, each day checking what I wrote the day before.

Then, after attending the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in September, I completely rewrote the 30,000 words I had up to that point.

Then, as I came up with new ideas, I went back and planted seeds in earlier chapters.

So by the time I finished Farewell to Kindness, I was calling what I had the second draft.

As I approached the end of the writing, I read up on editing, and I posted what I found.

Next, I worked out my own process, which was a kind of an amalgam of everyone else’s with a few of my own ideas thrown in.

I took a long weekend, and – in a marathon 35-40 hour sprint – went through the whole book in hardcopy, page by page, writing character names, plotpoints, story outline, and any ideas or discrepancies in a spiral-bound notebook.

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Then I decided that I needed to put some of this into a spreadsheet.

So I’ve spent every evening for the last week (and a few midnight hours) creating a three-tab spreadsheet. Tab one has all the plots across the top (four strands to the major plot, and 16 subplots), and all the scenes down the left hand side. I’ve marked where plots start, where they end, and where I’ve got lost somewhere in the middle.

This let me work out that I need to drop a couple of the minor plots because they aren’t needed, I need to work in a bit more about the Revenge strand of the major plot, because I pretty much forget about it in the middle of the book, and I need to close off some minor plots that I left hanging.

On tab two, I’ve listed all the characters in each scene. I’ve found (and fixed) some name changes by doing this. I’ve also put descriptions of characters when they appear in the book, so I could check that I didn’t change a person’s eye colour, height, or other personal characteristics.

Tab three is a calendar. I’ve added the phases of the moon, and moonset, moonrise, sunset and sunrise where they’re significant to the plot, and I’ve put the scenes in day by day. This allowed me to find out that Rede had an extra day up his sleeve, and could have been back in time to save Anne, so I’ve worked out something to delay him (which, not just incidentally, also allows me to close off my dangling plot lines before we get to the grand finale).

So here’s the spreadsheet. You’ll see it goes right from the left of my desktop screen to the right of my laptop screen.

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It’s been a little tedious, but I’m finding it a remarkably efficient way to work. My mind goes off on flights of fancy while my fingers are filling in character names, and all of a sudden a difficulty resolves itself.

Next step (already started) is to rewrite to bring all the ideas into the third draft. I’m pretty happy with the preface and first three chapters, and I’m excited about the changes and new scenes coming up.

The plan is to get the third draft done then prepare a copy for beta readers within the next fortnight. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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