Well, I took advice and left my novel in the box file untouched until last week. It helped that the 'resting' time coincided with Christmas and New Year when I had other things on my mind and I wasn't tempted to peek. I opened the box with trepidation - would I still believe in the story I'd written, would I find glaring plot-holes and, the most important worry, would the two stories of the dual narrative fit together?
I began by reading the book from the beginning to the end without stopping to make any notes or written comments. That way I was able to get the feel of the story and take on the role of a reader. Straight away, I noticed that the timing of some of the events in story two were not placed in the correct place to fit in with the events in story one. Once I'd finished the first read that was the first thing I did. I rearranged the chapters so that the story flows better.
I've now looked at each chapter and summarised what happens in each one, noting the word count. That way I can see how each one balances against the one in the parallel story. What I noticed is how much the length of the chapters vary. Does this matter? I'm busy looking at dual-narrative novels I've enjoyed by published authors to find out.
So what next?
There is a wealth of advice on how to go about editing a novel. There are self-help books, blog posts and recommendations on Twitter and Facebook. Only yesterday, I was in a conversation with @DMKnight78. She recommended reading your story aloud so that grammatical errors are highlighted. I do this with short stories but hadn't envisaged reading a full sized novel aloud. Her other point of making note of small details that occur in one chapter need to be consistent in another is something I can see I need to check thoroughly. I've found a number of anomalies already!
On The Writers'Circle FB page there was a link to the very useful Jody Hedlund's Blog. In it, she breaks editing down into three main areas of editing:
- Rewrites or macro-edits These will be the changes we need to make after spotting weaknesses in the story itself and in the characters. Jody suggests that it's better to tackle these big changes first before any other edits. She asks, 'Why bother focusing on word flow and spelling
mistakes within a particular scene when we may have to delete it?'
- Line edits. Here we need to go through line-by-line, studying each page and paragraph carefully. For me this will be checking that the dialogue I've used in 1947 or 1965 is appropriate for the era. Jody recommends keeping all of your research materials, biographies, and any pertinent information as you have to refer to it over and over again.
- and Proofreading These will involve checking for the minutest details: spelling, grammar, formatting, typos, continuity errors, detail accuracy, and other small scale problems. During our editing process, this should be the last type of edit we do in a final read-through and of course, this is what results in the final copy that creates the first impression with agents and publishers. For the differences between copyediting and proofreading, please click on Daily Writing Tips and Writers'Bureau
Over the next weeks, several writing friends will be sharing their experiences of editing in the form of guest blogs. Please call in each week to see what they have to say. I'm very excited about learning from them.
Thank you for reading. What advice do you have for editing? What did/would you do differently after your first attempt at editing? I'd love to hear your comments. Thank you. :-)
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.