On 31 May, I wrote ‘The End’ on my work in progress. Since then, I’ve been ‘letting it breathe’ like a wine, but unlike some wines which improve with age, my story is just the way I left it.
This week, I commenced the ‘First Official Edit’ which can be abbreviated as FOE because editing is the Enemy. (Not really, just a humorous acronym).
I’ve been doing as editor Nicola O’Shea suggests on writer Allison Tait’s blog:
Put your manuscript completely away from a month, then read it through in one go – preferably on hard copy and resisting the temptation to tweak.
However, I documented some thoughts I had while reading through my manuscript. For posterity.
I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you:
- I’ve read the beginning so many times that it no longer holds any interest for me.
- Too much dialogue and not enough ‘in between’ information.
- Amateur hour.
- Clumsy sentences galore.
- I wish I could erase my brain so that I could see the story with fresh eyes.
- I hate it.
- Why is there a chapter break there?
- Some of this is okay.
- Why is everyone so sweaty?
- I seem to be able to read this faster than I would a published book. Why?
- Why is this character tooting his car horn when there is literally no one else in the street?
- Ooh, I did some good foreshadowing. Give myself three points.
- I thought I was bad at scene setting but it’s not as terrible as I thought.
- There’s a decent sentence on this page.
- Cliché city.
- Points for using the word ‘festooned’.
- I think if I didn’t already know what was going to happen, I’d be curious here.
- My main character is a buffoon.
- Why isn’t there a chapter break there?
- It’s weird to describe a magpie as sturdy.
- Too much Story B.
- Why is everyone placing their hands gently on main character’s shoulder?
- Two characters are supposed to be fighting, yet a few scenes later they are friendly again with no explanation.
- I thought I was good at sentence structuring but lots of backwards words seem.
- The middle isn’t saggy, but it is daggy.
- Should this be in first person?
- In an attempt not to laden story with too much backstory, there is now no backstory and it doesn’t make any sense.
- The chapter I thought I would delete, is actually my favourite.
- I counted and there are ELEVEN similes in my work in progress. I thought there was only one. One terrible one. But there are eleven. Eleven terrible ones.
Side note: My husband did an impression of the face I was making while I was doing my read through, and apparently it looked a bit like this:
I’m proud to announce that my first draft is pretty crap.
Although I remain unconvinced that Stephen King’s first drafts are crap, it is more likely than not that most published authors don’t churn out beautiful pieces of prose on their first attempt.
Allison Tait shares what she learnt after participating in a writing webinar:
…even the crappiest piece of writing, there was always one line or underlying concept that was an absolute cracker. And how a whole new piece could be written around that line or concept. And that’s when I came to appreciate the magic of the horrible first draft. That sometimes you can’t get to the cracker concept until all the crappy words have been poured out first.
The next steps
On her blog This Itch of Writing, writer Emma Darwin calls what I’m currently doing ‘revising’ rather than ‘editing’. Editing is what editors do, and I’m a writer. According to Emma, whatever you call it, editing or revising is where the hard work really starts:
Now that you know what the story’s really about, did you ask yourself if you’ve told it through the right pairs of eyes? In the right tense? Started and finished it in the right place? When did you open your ears and ask yourself if the voices are voices that a reader is willing to listen to, and for a whole novel?
The next step is to uncap the red pen and ask myself those questions. This baby is going to be littered with comments in my pursuit of ‘cracker concepts’.
What did you think of my first impression of my work in progress? Have you had similar thoughts when reading your own manuscript? Please let me know in the comments below.