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Since I just finished the first draft of my work in progress, I thought I might write today’s Monday Musing about editing.  I’m diving into that territory today.  Dive with me, won’t you?

Step 1: Take a break

When I’m going over a draft, the first draft especially, I generally take a few days away from the work.  This helps me clear my head and get some distance from it so I can look it over with fresh eyes.  I don’t necessarily stop thinking about the draft, but I do stop reading it, writing it and tweaking it.  So, how long is my break?  No more than a week.  Any longer and you can get into procrastination territory, which can lead to writer’s block and stagnation.  (Already there?  Check out this blog to help you Break the Block.)

What do I do while I’m taking a break?  Well, my new production calendar demands I work on two titles at once, so generally I have another title I can work on while I’m taking a break from the last.  If, by some miracle, I’m at a simultaneous stopping point, I use that golden opportunity to read, or think about a new idea, or do things totally unrelated to writing, like finish my daughter’s baby book.  My daughter is a year and a half old, so you can see opportunities like that don’t come along often.

Anyway, the point is to take a breather so that you can approach the next step with a fresh pair of eyes.

Step 2: Read

After I’ve had a break, I reread the entire draft closely.  If it’s the first draft I’m reading, I only look for plot holes, flat characters, and places that need more description/explanation.  During this reading, I’m constantly asking myself “why?”  Why is that there, what purpose does it serve?  Why did the character behave that way?  What is her history?  Why is this circumstance like this?  Do I need more lead in here?

My questions might be different than yours.  If you’re a prolific writer, you may focus on the why is that there question more than any of the others.  I’m not, and often need to add content to make sure a story is complete.  As always, tailor your own editing and writing process to your needs!

As I ask these questions, I mark up my draft with them.  “Why is Mason behaving that way here?”  “What is the environment like here?”  “Why is Burton so driven to be an a-hole?”  I don’t concentrate on answering the questions in this step.  I simply identify the issues with the draft.

Step 3: Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changing!

Once the issues have been identified, it’s a lot easier to go through and make changes.  When you’re just looking at a completed draft, with no direction or instructions in the margins, editing can be an overwhelming process.  But if you’ve got your own comments off to the side, you can think about each one individually and make the change accordingly.  Just like when you get your draft back from your official editor.

I find this method works great for me because if I find a major problem, I don’t get bogged down with how much work it’s going to be to make that change, or how on earth am I going to make this work, or holy cow this is horrible and needs so many changes what am I going to do?  I simply address each issue one at a time and move on to the next.

Step 4: Off to the Races

Depending on what draft I’m on, it then goes to the various editors.  Since my current work is a first draft, when I’m done revising this week, it’ll go to the betas.  Then, I’ll spend another week revising, just like I am this week with the beta’s thoughts in mind.  Then it goes to my wonderful developmental editor.  Then I spend about two weeks making her changes (because they are always very extensive and time consuming), before sending it back to her for another look.  Then, it’s off to the proof reader, and I spend about a week making her changes.

In the end, it takes about fourteen to sixteen weeks to go from completed first draft to fully edited manuscript, for me anyway.  That’s why I work on two books at once, so I can still get 3 books per calendar year out.

Anyway, this is what works for me.  What works for you?  Tell me about your editing process in the comments!