My editing plan, to this point, has been haphazard beyond the initial edit or two. That means I need a plan, but I don’t want a rigid system. When I scrapped a system for an organized, but flexible and evolving, approach to drafting is when I became prolific.
Like with drafting, I’ve been digesting self-editing advice while testing, adapting, and sometimes discarding. Like with drafting, what I want is an approach that isn’t work. These are, after all, stories I hold dear.
What’s been my approach thus far? Mostly continuity edits where I verified the story was complete. That’s meant a beginning-to-end approach while fixing any glaring problems along the way. It works great—until it doesn’t.
After a pass or two, the continuity approach bogs down. I become swept up in the story. Chapters needing more attention don’t always get it. I spend time on chapters not needing the attention. Later chapters tend to suffer.
There’s also a trying-to-do-everything-at-once mindset. It’s slow and agonizing and reminds me of editing-as-you-go drafting.
Too slow! Too inefficient!
I want engaging and dynamic. I want to more easily maintain my editor mindset.
As always seems the case, all I need to know I already know. My strange mental processes just need to put it together. As you may have guessed, this post is happening because an approach has begun to coalesce in my brain.
I’m still working out the details, but I know how I’ve gotten here. It’s been a combination of advice, trial-and error, and triggered insight. It’s that insight that’s the core of this post.
For instance, a couple of years ago, while performing a continuity edit on A River in Each Hand, I’d noticed one character’s voice changed. Stitching together his dialogue made fixing the problem easier.
Meanwhile, I’d heard the advice to edit backwards. To me, though, that sounded like a continuity edit in reverse. In other words, a long slog where the latest chapters benefited most. In both cases, the middle suffered.
The next, well-timed step in my evolution was reading Tiffany Yates Martin’s book, Intuitive Editing. She advocates for targeting chapters based on need. The advice led to my reexamining recent experiences.
In a recent blog about coping with depression (yes, I know, this sounds strange … stick with me here) I noted that Protecting the Pneuma Key is my safe place. What’s important here, though, is what happened to that novel.
Often, when fleeing to Pneuma Key, I’d bounce chapters based on my emotional need at that particular moment. Simultaneously, and to further distract me, I’d perform what I thought of as a light edit.
The last time that happened (last month), I started at the beginning and became caught up in the story. I noted in my writing journal at the time, As always, I turned to Pneuma Key and was astounded at how polished it was.
How had that happened when I’d only performed a couple of continuity edits on the book?
A clue surfaced mere days ago. I went through Anthology I, which is a collection of eight short stories and a novella. Some of those stories date back to 2015, but some are quite recent. Again, I was stunned. It was more polished than most of my work.
Lightbulb moment. I was unknowingly performing targeted editing. Restricting my efforts to small chunks of text helped maintain my focus. That enabled maintaining an editor’s perspective more easily.
*My chapters run 1-2.5K each, my short stories 4-5K each with several breaks in each story.
My brief excursions into Pneuma Key were inadvertent targeted editing. Anthology I was the same, but for a different reason. I’d edited the short tales here and there over time when I’d wanted a break from longer material. Thus, my editing was being done out of order.
In other words, instead of editing from A to Z, or even Z to A, I was editing with an F-S-C-M-W approach.
There’s nothing like time to keep the material fresh. Targeted editing keeps the material fresh within the book. My thought is to lavish time on the best chapter, then move on to the next best (or vice versa).
I don’t have this completely straight in my head, but I’m close.
Meanwhile, I also change fonts (I have my preferred ones), change their size, and also change the displayed line length. Fortunately, all that takes mere seconds (I love you, Scrivener!).
My next step is to refine my task list while I’m performing continuity edits on my many novellas. By the time they’re done I should be ready to take this idea for a test run. That means I’ll be revisiting this topic.