I love reading, and as a writer I like to broaden my scope by reading outside of my comfort zone, so that I can learn more about my craft.
I don’t know how many of you have ever tried to edit a book, but I guess it’s a fair few. I don’t know how you did it. Honestly, I find it torturous. I once described it thus -
“Doing mind numbling, soul destroying, story ruining edits. #editing, #writing, #fixingmistakes, #braindead.”
That pretty much sums up what editing is like for me. Or should I say was. The problem is this: I currently have an average of 40 complete novels, which need editing. I’m currently editing my 16th book, as I slowly but surely work my way through editing them all. I only have one, teeny, tiny problem.
They’re a mess.
Yup. That sums up exactly what is wrong with my stories. The stories are great – in my opinion – and they work but there is sooo much wrong with them. Too long. Too many characters. Too jumbled. Not been properly edited. Not been properly spell-checked (my old laptop had a problem with letting mistakes through) and there are too many conflicting POV in one chapter. That is what I need to fix.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m on the last book of The Secrets of Avelina Chronicles, no. 6 and it’s going slowly but it’s at least going. This is how I plan to fix everything:
1. Save 2 copies of the original text. – 1 to change, 1 to refer back to in case of mistakes.
2. Reformat the entire document to these specs. Times New Roman font, size 10 for body and 12 for titles. Left align, with 0.3cm pnt spacing at the start of each paragraph. Centre align all titles/chapter headings. Double spaced.
3. Add family tree
4. Add contents
5. Replace all – ‘try and’ with ‘try to’, ‘anymore’ with ‘any more’, ‘alright’ with ‘all right’, ‘, and’ with ‘ and’, ‘, or’ with ‘ or’. These are the niggly little problems I do by mistake all the time.
6. Work chapter by chapter, placing each section into a document for one character. E.g. All POV by Damian into one doc. All POV by Trey or Kaitlin or Lucius, into their own doc. By the time the book is divided, I then work from the original to decide what order the text has to go in.
7. Create 3rd doc, for new reformatted novel. Add the following: title, family tree, contents.
8. Begin to create chapters from the individual documents. E.g. No more than 10 pages to a chapter. No less than 5. All pages must be POV of one character.
9. Once all chapters are created and saved, they can be arranged into the correct order.
10. Once created, saved and arranged, they can be replaced into the main body of the text.
11. Start at the beginning, read entire story, correcting mistakes as they come.
12. Once entire document is read and corrected, do a spell-check.
13. Americanize the relevant stories through spell-check.
14. Check grammar.
15. Final save and store.
As you can see it’s a very long, tedious process. And I’ve only done this for 16 of 40 books so far. It’s going to take forever. But I have to admit that at the end of each finished book, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. Especially when you can view the finished product and not find any mistakes. What I like to do, to ensure this, is put it into Calibre, convert it into .mobi and read it on my Kindle. That is a brilliant way to check spacing, long paragraphs and the flow of the story. But WARNING – don’t do this immediately after reading and editing the story. The story will be boring and familiar to you, after all the hard work you’ve put in, so it’s probably best you leave that sort of thing for when the story is less familiar. That way you’re likely to notice mistakes, flow, continuity etc and will be able to do something about it.
There’s nothing worse than your own story becoming boring and dull to you. You wrote it. You came up with the concept, moulded it, grew it and produced it. You polished it into a fine specimen and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t want to get over familiar with it.
The most difficult part of editing, I find, is that you know the story far too well. Not for the reasons above, but because you know each character intimately and you can’t bear to lose them. Even when it’s necessary. For example, Book 3 of The Secrets of Avelina Chronicles is called Vairi’s Revenge. There are two sisters, Savannah and Tegen who I find really integral to the growth of the story, through the series, and who add a little something to Book 3 that can’t be found elsewhere. Now, here’s the problem. If I remove these two characters, I have a better length of book and a more condensed, focused story with less characters. If I keep them however, they flow through the next two books perfectly and help to make sense of things later to come.
My dilemma was not solved, then or now. So I’ve done both. I kept them in the first version, then removed them in a second version. The final edition will depend on how my publisher views their characters and whether they will be cut. But if they are going to be removed, I will, of course, utilise them elsewhere. Maybe in a short side story, maybe just as a cut scene on Wattpad. I’m not sure yet.
Book 1 was very hard for me. Runaway Girl lost over 40,000 words between my final edit, sent to my publisher and the version that was released. I have since put it through this rigorous process, mentioned above, and I’ve lost another 25,000 words from the 1st edition. But it is much more condensed and it wasn’t so hard the second time around. I’ll admit, that first time I didn’t want to lose anything or anyone. I gave up sentences grudgingly, and pages with a lot of sadness. But this time around, I had already been through the process of editing it once and I knew the story so much better than before. Second time around, I was chopping things all over the place and being as brutal as possible. Not on purpose, but because now that I knew the story better, I was willing to give up the not so good parts, to show off the great parts so much better. I thought of it as a necessary evil – the few sacrificed for the thousands.
I’ll confess that I’m very happy with the outcome of all my editing this last month. It’s been hard keeping up with doing all these 16 stories and trying to fit in writing as well as doing reading for my blog, but it was worth it. I edit or write during the day, as well as keeping up with my social media, and then at night, I get reading done. Granted, it doesn’t leave a lot for time for sleep, but with my brain buzzing with ideas for new stories, editing ideas and things that need done, there isn’t much chance of a peaceful nights rest any way.
I think of it like this: if I edit all my stories to kingdom come now, it should – in theory – take much less time later, when they’re with the publisher. For that, I’ll have to wait and see. The proof is in the pudding, so they say.