So what’s the best way to edit? Start at Chapter 1 and work through methodically? Start at the end and work back? Or delve and pluck haphazardly?
I have to confess to being a delver and plucker but not in the first edit.
Logistics and continuity – make sure people are not standing up before they’ve sat down, not leaving a room without entering it, getting up before going to bed and haven’t pinched any dialogue. More than once I’ve written a scene which tumbles out of my brain and then wondered what day it was and who was speaking to whom.
Characters – are they multi-dimensional? Do they stay consistent?
Names – choose them carefully in the first instance so the reader isn’t confused by similarity. If only I followed my own advice, it would save so much time at first edit.
Knowledge – make sure a character doesn’t pontificate on a subject about which they should know nothing because no one from the story has told them.
Ruthlessness – get rid of rubbish. Every chapter should have some significance. No point in writing five thousand words of fluffy niceness, unless it’s relevant to the plot. Does it have a sentence or word that will anchor it to the reveal?
Plot – is it contradictory? Does it flow? Does it deviate? Is it interesting? Is it believable or sufficiently entertaining for the suspension of reality to work?
If the manuscript doesn’t meet the above criteria then it’s not a case of #AmEditing, it’s #AmRewriting or even #AmScrapping and one of my efforts met a sticky end at this point.
Now it’s time to move forward.
is the bit I love. Delving and plucking. Being happy with the overall manuscript and then tweaking and twisting the plot with subtle nuances.
is all about proof-reading. Going through with the proverbial fine-tooth comb looking for repetition, typos, grammatical errors, punctuation et al. At the end of this edit I look at my manuscript critically and if it passes muster, I arrange a second opinion. (If you’re an Indie author, I would still recommend professional proof-reading prior to publication).
is the worse part. Mr JH has taken over this responsibility from youngest child who is now flying high and no longer able to assess his mother’s work. However my new critic is every bit as brutal so if it’s nonsense, he’ll tell me.
Latest manuscript is about to wing its way to his inbox. Fingers crossed!