Editing a Rough Draft, or, Lots and Lots of Big X Marks on the Page

Envy not the novel writer, for it is their job to destroy most of what they have worked so hard to do.

And that's just the first draft.

These past weeks, I've been focusing hard on my novel, editing the rough draft and planning what needs to be drafted for the second draft. I'm nearly through the main part of this process — the editing, or, rather, the chopping and axing. It's amazing how many pages of manuscript are so easy to edit — I just skim the page, sigh, and chop a big X through the whole thing.

Next is the harder part, but one I'm looking forward to: mapping out the full arc, and what new content the story needs for that arc to happen.

How are the characters introduced? How does a minor character in this chapter need to play a larger role in a later, pivotal bit of action? Does the main character really —

Oh, sorry there, nearly gave that bit away.

Back to the editing. Here's what's been working for me so far:

  • Set a timer for 20 minutes. That's the daily minimum.
  • Have either a glass of water or a cuppa tea or coffee; booze I usually save for after the writing/editing work is done for the day.
  • Open a legal pad to a fresh page — I like having this parallel bit of paper there, it's been very helpful in mapping out action and arc
  • Follow my instincts and ax mercilessly. I don't fully know consciously where the story is going, and that's fine — my subconscious has a decent idea, and it's good at asserting itself.
  • X, chop and shorten as needed.
  • Grin. This is all to make a better story, and a better rewrite.

1 thought on “Editing a Rough Draft, or, Lots and Lots of Big X Marks on the Page”

  1. When your timer goes off, do you typically stop? Do you feel like, “Ah, well thats plenty now.” ??? Would it not be better to have some sort of more quiet timer or…shoot I dunno. Something that won’t pull you out of the zone if you happen to get into it?

    Reply

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