In the writer’s world, there are times of pure pleasure, of catharsis that keep us coming back for more. One of those times is when we are pouring our words onto the page – creating a new story and getting lost in the world we created. This happens most often when we are creating a first draft. We are encouraged by all of the experts to keep going at this point. Just get the words on the paper. Oh, what a pleasure. Yes, thank you very much, we love to do just that.
But after we’ve typed THE END, then what? It all depends on our plans (and God’s plan) for our story.
I compare this to getting dressed in the morning. It all depends on the activities of the day. There are rare occasions when staying in the same pajamas we got up in will work just fine. But, usually, we need to edit that outfit a little, if the plan is for someone else to see us. Sometimes, we even need to edit the closet, removing things that have been hanging for awhile, resurrecting old things that may deserve new life.
It seems a very daunting task, but when handled sensibly, editing can be fun. (Glad I’m not trying to say that out loud, with my tongue in my cheek.) And besides, it feels so good when we are finished. Just like knowing we have chosen the right outfit for our day.
Start the process by determining the purpose for your edits. What is the end result supposed to look like? Do you have a certain word count that has been suggested by an agent or editor? Is your story too long or too short? In this case, you need to take a look at how well things move along. Did you spend too much time at the beginning in the setup of your story, or did it come to a crashing finish too quickly, with little or no buildup? If your story needs work,and more words, you can go back to creative mode, adding more description, more conflict, a new plot twist. If the word count is too long, your job is harder. You may have to delete scenes that lead nowhere. If they are really just beautiful, creative scenes, though, copy them and keep them. You may use them in another story. But if they don’t fit – you must omit (sorry about that).
Another note about revising your story. I have a work in progress that has been 45,000 words, 85,000 words and back to 40,000 again. You can be assured that I saved both the long and the short versions. When a new home for this book comes along with a preferred word count, I am ready. At least, I will be ready to get started again.
After your story is the right length, editing the fine points begins. Here is where you old buddy, Chicago Manual of Style comes in. There are so many people in the writing world who live and breathe these fine points of editing, and some have written books that will help. One I’ve recently gotten hold of is “Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors” by Kathy Ide. This step is not painless, but so necessary. If you are trying to attract an agent or editor’s attention, you work must SHINE. If you are taking your story directly to readers through self-publishing, you must impress them enough to continue to read this and your future projects.
So, time to choose an outfit, and get dressed for the day. Depending on whether you will be outdoors or indoors, in a formal or casual setting, with some thought, you can dress appropriately. Give your story the same consideration before sending it on its way. Happy editing!