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This Writing Life: Editing and my Read-Through Notes

21 June, 2012

It’s not often that I blog about the editing and revising side of writing, for the simple reason that it’s my least favourite part of the process. However, last week I started what’s going to be a fairly major edit of my most recent first draft, so I thought I’d do a few posts about what I’m doing – and whether or not it ends up working.

I’m attempting, for the first time, to do this edit in a single pass, broken into two stages: a single read-through, and then a single round of edits, working through one chapter at a time. Whether I’ll actually be so efficient in the end remains to be seen. To start with though, I’m on the read-through stage.

So how am I going about it? First up, I converted my novel into .epub format, so it could be transferred to my e-reader. (As a useful aside, here, Scrivener’s ‘compile’ function allows you to convert a novel into any number of formats, including .epub. Whilst the end result might not be a perfect, sale-quality ebook – at least not with my rudimentary knowledge – it’s great for saving your work in different formats for your own use.)

Here you can see my work-in-progress ebook. There are some little niggles – including that strange double chapter heading with two different numbers – but that’s irrelevant for now. I’m simply using this ebook version as an easy way to read through my manuscript without straining my eyes, and with the option of working away from my computer.

More importantly, as I read, I make notes. I started my edit by looking back at my planning for the novel, reminding myself what I wanted to achieve, and making a list (I love lists) of everything I’d missed from the first draft but still want to have in the novel. This is a list I’ll return to again and again through my edits, to make sure this novel becomes everything I want it to be.

Next comes the read-through itself, making chapter by chapter notes of everything that’s wrong, needs fixing and just doesn’t make sense. You can see the first page of my chapter notes below.

To start off, I have the chapter number, the point of view character and a page number – which is high because I’ve continued my numbering from my first notebook, which contained all this novel’s planning and research. Having a single numbering scheme means I can cross-reference any other page and find it instantly, without having to work out which notebook it refers to first (it’s a little thing, but it’s amazing how much easier it makes my life!).

The notes themselves cover everything from mood and theme, to clunky parapraphs, to out-of-character moments and plot inconsistencies. These are all things I need to fix later. What do I not include? Too many details of typos, rubbish word choices and style issues. So much of the existing prose could be cut in the edits that noting down typos now is meaningless – I’ll pick up on them when I’m in the next stage of editing, typing up my changes chapter by chapter.

I’ve got a long way still to go on these edits, certainly, but I’m also feeling more positive about these revisions than any I’ve done before. Hopefully, if you’re also stuck in the editing mines, you’ll have picked up a few tips here – and in posts to come – that will make your life easier too.

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