This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Yes, I know I said that the series on editing would have four parts but, since I'm currently rewriting a book at the moment, I've had some extra thoughts on the neat, four-stage process I've outlined… So you get a bonus part five, you lucky ducks!
Here's the deal, I firmly believe in the four stages of revision. I believe they're excellent guidelines and a sensible, systematic way to approach editing your novel.
However, and it pains me to say this; they might not work. Or they might not work for you at this particular time. Or they might not work for you in that particular order. Or for this particular book.
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In stage two, for example, it's logical to tackle the big stuff first, but if you're so paralysed by that notion that you're unable to even open your document (this was me last week, by the way), then you should go ahead and ignore the sensible route. Tell yourself you're going to change something easy, something small. The name of the comedy ferret because you've realised that it's the name of your ex-boyfriend and you're worried he'll sue you, perhaps, or the colour of your hero's eyes which mysteriously change from blue to brown halfway through the manuscript. The point is, sometimes you have to take teeny tiny baby steps and telling yourself repeatedly that you're doing things 'wrong' or 'out of the proper order' is not going to help matters.
Maybe, your process won't look like these neat stages at all. I remember reading about a writer who wrote his second drafts entirely from scratch, without referring to his first draft at all.
In short, this series on editing is just like all other writing advice – tips and hints which may (or may not) be useful to you. If this approach doesn't work for you, please don't be discouraged. Take what works and ignore the rest.
Also, different books require different levels of editing. Just because you went through three (or thirty) revisions with your last book, doesn't mean you have to repeat the same number with the next.
Not to mention that all first drafts are not created equal. Some drafts are bloated with superfluous prose; description, characters, and sub-plots, while others are positively skeletal.
Finally, editing can be a scary business. You usually have to make things a great deal worse (i.e. messier, less coherent) before you can make it better and this is anxiety-inducing. It makes you worry that you're somehow going to 'break' your story.
Take heart from the knowledge that these fears are normal, save your manuscript as a separate document in between each editing session (so you can revert back if necessary), and be bold.