Having recently finished three rounds of editing on my YA paranormal romance JUDGES I figured I’d talk about my own process when it comes to strengthening the manuscript.
One of the best things I ever learned in college was from one of my favorite creative writing professors when she told me, “Molly, you are good writer, but an over-writer.” After I closed my mouth, which had dropped in shock, she proceeded to tell me what constitutes an over-writer. This is a writer who usually takes two to three extra sentences to drive in the point--when it was already clearly made the first time. Or someone who reiterates the effect they are going for one too many times. She concluded the meeting by giving me pointers on how to accept the type of writer I was and how to make it work for me.
I’m still an over-writer. I don’t believe that will ever change. I have gotten much better at not completely overdoing it like I did in college, but despite my best efforts, I find there are always things to cut in my manuscripts. So, the best process for me when writing a manuscript is to have several different drafts.
The first draft is where I am freest. I force myself to forget the rules and my goals and just write the story my characters are telling me. This first draft is for me and my characters only. Then after giving it a couple weeks to rest, I pull it up and make another copy, labeling this one Draft Two. Draft two is my first read-through with fresh eyes and I’ll go through and make little changes or comments or cuts where I feel they are necessary. After this I let it sit for another couple weeks and then pull it up again and make another copy and label it Draft Three. This goes on and on until I’ve finally decided the story is sharp and polished and ready to be read by my critique partners. After they’ve given it their comments, I go back and make changes again. This is an on going process, one that can feel never ending at times, but in the long run turns the story into something much stronger than where it originally started.
Three books that helped me immensely when it came to editing my own work are: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. And Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. The last one only applies if you write in the Young Adult genre but the other two fit any genre or style of writing. They cover everything from basic sentence structure to determining the best word choice when conveying certain emotion.
After landing my rock star of an agent, Brittany Howard, I knew there would be more edits to come. What was different about this stage in the process was I had an experienced professional with insight into my story guiding me. Her comments and suggestions enhanced the characters or their actions or the story overall. And each time I got a new set of notes from her I knew we were one step closer to achieving the story I wanted to tell. The best part of the process was that we were always on the same page and Brittany would realize aspects of my story I hadn’t even thought about!
Brittany and I went through three rounds of edits together on JUDGES and I sent her the final copy a couple of weeks ago. I can’t lie, when I hit the send button I was a little terrified. Now it is out my hands--I can only hope and pray a publishing house will love the story the way Brittany and I do--and I’m sure if I get lucky enough to land a book deal there will be a whole new round of edits to come. Of course I’m looking forward to it.
How does your editing process work? Are there any books that helped you with your process or any advice you received that helped? Feel free to pass on the advice in the comments!