This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
by Anna Bell
When I finish a manuscript I can’t wait to dive into editing it, but I have to reign in the temptation to tinker with every word, as I’m a big believer in planning my editing. Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to the edit?
I’ve written novels every which way – with detailed chapter plans, with nothing but a blank page, with the help of a synopsis; it seems to very much depend on what the book I’m writing and how I approach it. Yet, when it comes to editing, I’ve learnt that the best way to get through it is to get organised. I write a messy first draft, but that first edit is really where the hard work starts and mess gets cleaned up.
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I always think that writing a book and editing is a bit like baking a birthday cake. You start combining the basic ingredients in the first draft – that’s mainly getting the ideas down into a basic story. Then, for me, first edit is like the baking stage, as that’s when it seems to come together. From there, each edit is like putting the finishing touches on – the jam and buttercream in the middle, the icing on the top, and finally the decorative features.There’s always the temptation when I first finish a book to dive right in and start tampering, but it is so much easier and quicker in the long run to take a step back and examine the bigger picture. I read the manuscript on my Kindle, taking notes on each chapter. I then assemble a word document where I break each chapter down, giving it a heading related to what happened, and then very brief notes on what needs to be changed or added. I then add in any additional chapters which need to be written, in order to make the story work. This is when I work out the timeline of the novel so I know exactly what date each chapter takes place. I also make a note of any key observations that apply to the whole novel, such as character motivations that need to be more explicit throughout.
Armed with my plan, I start in what seems like the middle, adding the new chapters if they’re needed. That way I’m close as possible to having the ingredients mixed and ready to bake. It’s easier to write entire chapters after finishing my first draft as I’m still in the writing rather than editing zone. Whereas if I waited until I got to the missing chapter in order of my manuscript I’d be well into editing mode. Once all the new writing is done, I go through the novel, chapter by chapter, and tinker with it according to my plan.
By looking at the big picture, I know that when I change something in chapter one, it isn’t going to have to be changed later on, when I amend chapter twenty two. I know exactly what the problems are and what needs to be fixed, and although making the notes and plan are laborious, I know they’ll save me time in the long run.
What do you think – are you more of a dive right in and edit, edit, edit? Or are you into your plans?