It seems appropriate that so soon after over a hundred thousand people participated in National Novel Writing Month, I should be hard at work editing the novel I started as NaNoWriMo in 2006. It had been put aside for several years, but played on my imagination, so this year, I finished it off.
I will never write a novel like that again, half-starting it, then setting it aside. I've lost too much of the original enthusiasm and the ideas had changed with my experiences. Driven as I felt to complete it, I found myself fighting tooth and nail for each scene. At one point, I was ready to scrap the whole thing and stick the plot on The Love Boat, when my insightful friend, Ann Lewis, remarked, "That's because you're not treating it like science fiction. You have this fabulous ship and you're not doing anything with it."
I realized then the fatal mistake of my NaNo work--because it was so fast and seat of the pants, it was limited in its scope. When I realized that, I started writing a much grander plot and a father-reaching theme. I also involved the other characters in ways I never expected. My mind was afire with ideas.
Of course, the end result is that the last third does not match the original two thirds. This will be the most extensive editing project I've ever done. I invite you to join me in the process and perhaps learn something from my mistakes and frustrations.
I expect the editing will take more than my usual five passes, but I'll share those with you now. Next week, I'll tell you my general plans for surgical editing of Discovery, and then each Thursday, I'll report my status.
Five Steps For Editing a Manuscript:
1. Spell and Grammar Check: I do this as a quick check, and I don't believe everything Microsoft says about grammar. There's a lot the word processor doesn't understand. However, it's a good start.
2. Use the Find function for spotting passive voice and other common problems I have. If you use the Find function for words like is, was, were, very, etc., you will discover the passive-voice sentences. I also use it for other common problems I have--words I tend to overuse; names I may have misspelled (I find the misspellings, or use the Replace to change them all.)
3. Print and read it. I always catch more stuff when it's on paper than when I have it on the computer.
4. Read it out loud. This lets me check for flow of narrative and hard to follow sentences. Also, by reading it to my kids, they will tell me what works and what doesn't.
5. Read it backward, one sentence at a time. By isolating each sentence from the narrative, I can better analyze it.
Usually after that, I will give it a final read, beginning to end, on the computer.