Editing in action – part one

I have started on the full rewrite of my third novel, now that the first draft is finished, and I got the idea that it might be interesting to give an insight into the rewriting/editing process that me and my friend Hillary use. Our working methods are pretty similar, mainly because I’ve adopted her way of working, which suits me quite well. In essence, I write a first draft, of which every chapter is sent to Hillary as soon as I finish it for her first impressions. Any comments she gives me are stored away for use in the rewrite (usually in my head, though I’ve started to actually write them down. I rely far too much on my memory sometimes).

Once the book is finished in first draft, I read through the whole thing and make notes as I go along. Often I come up with character traits or plot elements later in the book (I’m very much a pantser) which require bits to be changed earlier on, so I’ll make a note of those things as I do the read-through.

After the read-through comes the re-write, which I do with the old document open beside it. Quite often there are large sections which I copy word for word, but there are also parts which end up being drastically different from the first version. After each chapter is finished, I post it up in Google Docs and share it with Hillary, who then does what we call a ‘nitpick edit’. This includes pointing out awkward sentences, spelling errors and superfluous commas, but also covers a general edit along the lines of ‘this bit doesn’t work, it’s too wordy’ or ‘do you realise you have a massive plot hole here?’

Based on that nitpick edit I’ll make any amount of changes in the second draft. Sometimes this means very little changes at all, sometimes it means she makes me rewrite a whole chapter four times (as happened with the first chapter of The Conspiracy).

After the second draft is done and dusted I do another full read-through, usually on the bus to work so I have no other distractions like Diablo, Facebook games, a husband wanting attention or thoughts of ‘ooh, I have chocolate in the cupboard’. Downside of that is that I have to type any ideas on my Kindle’s awkward virtual keyboard, but I suppose one has to suffer for one’s art.

I make any amendments as a result of that, then pass the book on to my beta readers, of which I have three. This doesn’t sound like much, but I have a lot of faith in Hillary’s editing abilities, and in the honesty of my beta readers. The first one is my husband, who has no choice in the matter. He never reads romance, so his opinion is very good for establishing whether the non-romantic fantasy/adventure plot is interesting enough. The second one is the husband of one of my best friends, who likes anything in the fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk spectrum and is a transvestite. He gives a very good holistic opinion. My third beta reader is a colleague and good friend, who also likes fantasy in general, and doesn’t mind the romance. She’ll tell me if things are too sappy, because while my books are definitely romance, I try not to go too over the top too often with the ‘I love you, my widdle shnoogly-boogly pumpkinny-wumpkinny’ stuff.

All three will give me their opinion, and these will be taken into account if I agree (which I don’t always do, but that’s a fact throughout the whole editing process, since Hillary is great, but we don’t always agree on everything).

After that entire process is finished, I’m ready to publish the book, so the last thing to do is to ensure that all the formatting is correct, that I’ve included a dedication and a ‘now that you’ve finished my book, please do this’ section at the end. I also include a copy of the map, and poke my nephew to get my cover done. Publishing to Kindle is a matter of hours, so only once that’s done do I start work on formatting the print edition. This involves poking my nephew again, since that requires a full cover rather than just a front, and it takes longer on the whole because I also need to order a proof print copy before I can give the go ahead to put it up for sale in print version. The print version really is only for those few people who have expressed interest but don’t own a Kindle, because most of the printed copies in existence were bought by me. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have it available, though in the case of The Conspiracy I get paid more in royalties for every e-copy I sell than for the printed version.

The next post will show this process (up to a point) with an actual example from my new book, as I will disassemble the prologue to show exactly how it all works.


2 thoughts on “Editing in action – part one

  1. Deborah Jay

    Sounds much like the way I do it, only my primary readers/editors are my writing group, who see all the first draft chapters and point out immediately where I’ve gone astray, or put in something that just plain doesn’t work.
    How about proofreading, or do you just consider that covered as you go through the multiple drafts?

    1. Erica Dakin Post author

      I’m lucky enough that I have a very good eye for spelling errors, so most of my proofreading I do as I go along. Anything I did miss, Hillary tends to pick up on. Neither of us is 100% infallible, but between us I’d say we tend to pick up enough that the final edit is to professional standard, i.e. not error free, but with probably no more than five spelling errors left in the final version.


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