Much as I’d like to lay claim to inventing these editing techniques, I cannot tell a lie. I’ve picked them up from various sources, including various authors on the subject and an editing course at the Queensland Writers Centre led by Dr Kim Wilkins.
As with most things, I attempt to learn from the masters and then adapt the methods to suit my preferred way of working and the subject matter of my project.
This is how I approached editing my novella.
Step 1 – On-screen mini-edit: I read through the entire manuscript on the screen, stopping to fix up any truly awful bits and tidy up story lines that vanished into a black hole instead of having a resolution. I called this a mini-edit, as it was not intended to produce a polished product.
Step 2 – Scene labelling and Table of Contents: After refreshing my memory of the entire piece, I went through each of my 14 chapters and gave them names, which I labelled using Headings in my Word program. In this case the chapter names reflect the character or event that is the central focus of the chapter.
Next I inserted a Table of Contents at the start of the manuscript and – presto – I had an instant chapter outline with page numbers. Using simple subtraction I checked that the chapters weren’t overly long or overly short and that the sequencing looked right.
Before I send off the manuscript I’ll definitely remove the Table of Contents, but may keep the chapter names (or perhaps I’ll remove them).
Step 3 – Print out and give feedback: I find that I read differently hard copy to on-line. In hard copy it’s easier to fool yourself into thinking the manuscript is someone else’s work. Giving constructive feedback to an imaginary friend is way easier than beating yourself up about your own work.
So I printed out the manuscript and read it through as if it weren’t mine. As I went, I made hand-written notes to the author. I didn’t actually correct anything. Instead I asked questions, or wrote reword or rewrite and ran a pen-line down the margin to show where the changes were needed. (I also gave a few ticks, but only where they were deserved.)
Step 4 – Getting feedback from peers: This was the scary part. I asked my writer friends if they’d like to be test readers, with the promise to return the favour, and sent my manuscript out into the world. Some feedback came as a phone call, some was written on the manuscript itself, some came back in an email. I’ve been waiting for all five to respond so I can collate it. I may or may not adopt their suggestions – it’s my work after all – but they’ve picked up on typos and repetition, plot holes and unintended character flaws that I will certainly take into account.
Step 5 – Final draft: I haven’t done this step yet, and will do so when all the feedback is in. After that, I’m planning to have it indie published as my first experimental foray into the world of ebooks. Wish me luck.