For the past few weeks I’ve been editing my novel and three short stories. Though in the past I’ve always edited my short stories, only now that the stakes are high enough do I see how important, I mean REALLY important, editing is. In my mind there’s no doubt about it: writing is all about editing.
My editing process is somewhat… strange. Perhaps it’s because English isn’t my native language. Perhaps it’s just because my first drafts are in worst shape than the ones the well-known writers produce (yeah, I know I shouldn’t compare myself with them, but I can’t help it. I want to be traditionally published and to make it happen, I feel I have to be better than them. This is what I meant earlier when I said “the stakes are high”).
The first thing I do, is to restructure each sentence and each paragraph. I’m never satisfied with the way I write my sentences, even after several edits (language barrier and related linguistic insecurities apply here).
Once that’s done, I activate my macros. Yes, I use macros for specific mistakes I know I make, and yes, they’re more than one. I have one for filter words (which somehow still seem to make their way to my drafts) and another one for useless words (like “very”, “that”, “just”, “even”, “There was”, “there was”, “there were”, “There were”, “actually”, “practically”, “literally”, “suddenly”, “really”, “again”, “Again”).
The third step deals with how I use the word “as” in a sentence. That’s a tricky one to deal with. I often use it in a sentence when I shouldn’t. The following example is from http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/04/re-write-wednesday-dont-tell-me-why.html (Bob ran for the cabin as the zombie swung at his head.) In this example the AS implies that both actions happen at the same time. The problem is that’s not the case. The second part of the sentence is the reason why the first part happens. The zombie attacks Bob and because of that, Bob runs away. Using AS here is wrong (though “wrong” sounds so strange when it comes to a creative art like writing, no?). Still, I not only overuse that word, I flood my MS with it. Hence, the need for yet another macro to evaluate each occurrence of that word.
The last editing step (for the first round of edits, mind you) is the worst of all; my incomplete macro for adverbs. I consider it an incomplete macro for two reasons: 1. some adverbs don’t have the -ly ending (https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/adverbs-manner.htm), 2. That last step should include adjectives as well, but given the nature of the words (they don’t have a special ending), I can’t include them in a macro. Which means I have to go over the entire passage and highlight every single word that’s an adjective. Why is that bad? I’m a perfectionist when it comes to doing something that I love. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Humans make mistakes! I often miss them because I either fail to identify them (oh, language barrier, if only you had a face I could punch…) or because my brain has turned into mush and I fail to notice them.
Once these steps are done, and I’m ok-ish with the results (I tried using the word “satisfied” instead of “ok-ish”, but alas I couldn’t! Not even for this post!), then I turn to beta readers and critiquers (if such a word as critiquers exists). And then a new round of editing starts, which includes the above but also their suggestions. Grand total of edits? As I mentioned in a previous post, between 9-12 up to this point.
What happens after that to my MS? Well, then and only then can I say it’s no longer in its first draft status.
Is it ready, you ask? A few weeks ago I would have said yes. But these past few weeks I’ve been reading Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (http://www.bookdepository.com/Self-Editing-for-Fiction-Writers-Second-Edition-Renni-Browne/9780060545697 or if you prefer Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421593167&sr=8-1&keywords=Self-Editing+For+Fiction+Writers
Now I cry every time I finish the steps I mentioned earlier, because I realise there’s SOOOO much more that I have missed.
I was about to send my cyberpunk short story out to a well-respected, VERY well-paying, professional magazine. Who was it that said that manuscripts are never perfect but simply abandoned, meaning the writer refuses to work on it any more and considers it ready for publication? Yeah, I’m not ready for that yet.
Back for another round of editing. Yay!
P.S. See how I knew I’d fail point #1 from this post? Will there ever be a time I won’t have to compare myself to those better than me?!