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Editing first draft of first novel. Tips?
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Pl242 · 16/12/2020 23:20

Hello. New to this corner of MN but seems like there are a bunch of clued up people here. So I’d love to ask you a question.

I have met my (self imposed) deadline of finishing the first draft of my first novel before my kids break up for Christmas. I’m allowing myself a brief moment of self satisfaction for this.

The next task will be editing the beast (125,000 words, 65 chapters in 8 parts).

I’d love any insight anyone would be willing to share on how to go about the editing process.

Thanks.

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Lizzie523 · 16/12/2020 23:40

Me too! Just finished last week. Following for advice.

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Pl242 · 17/12/2020 08:15

Well done @Lizzie523. Nice to meet a fellow drafter.

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Zilla1 · 17/12/2020 09:54

I expect the process differs for everyone as does the process of writing. For me, I'd say:

  1. wait for enough time to help you get perspective so don't go straight in (I get the impression you want to hurry). Just keep a notebook and write down big issues you want to improve (characters and story that aren't needed, characters not interacting, pacing, what needs simplifying, what needs ambiguity........)

  2. there is a difference between big picture (structural, development) and detail. There's less point proof reading the spelling and grammar for text that may change in big picture edits.

  3. if you can keep all the structural changes you want in your head then start at the beginning and incorporate the changes. If not, take each major change and edit it accordingly. After you've done this, start at the beginning and tidy up the cascading problems that result (where you remove a character but find them in places you forgot). You can use search for character names, places and so on to help. I expect there are applications that help but I use MS Word.

  4. keep a handle on version control of the documents.

    Others will have better ideas.

    Good luck.
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Pl242 · 17/12/2020 12:55

Thank you @Zilla1 for taking the time to share your perspective. That's all really useful.

I know I need to take a break from the manuscript and plan to do so. Christmas holidays with 2 children under 5 in Tier 3 means the next couple of weeks will be rammed and I have some other things besides writing that I need to focus on in January. So I am going to give it a while. I just want to have some ideas of my approach to the task ahead of time, so I can crack on when I start the process.

I have kept a journal alongside drafting, so have a huge list of things in there that I know require attention.

Completely makes sense to focus on the big picture first over detail though know I will have to sit on my hands to stop correcting spelling and grammar. I also know that I've been focused on getting the story out, as coherently as possible in the first draft and have sacrificed the actual prose many times to do so. So I know I'll find it hard to cringe through the lacklustre writing to focus on the structure of the narrative, but good to be forewarned I suppose.

My story has multiple PoVs and somewhat of an ensemble cast. I know there is a received wisdom that such an endeavour might be too ambitious for a first timer, but this was what was calling to me, so I went with it. So I imagine this will need a lot of attention, as well as things I haven't even realised aren't working yet.

I know this is a question without a definitive answer, but interested in views on how long the editing process might take? I was thinking I might aim for Easter/Spring as a point by which I might feel I have done as much as I can by myself and may then seek outsides eyes of some shape of form. But I have form for setting myself unrealistic deadlines, so am I completely kidding myself there?

Thank you again. Hope this is useful for you too @Lizzie523.

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Zilla1 · 17/12/2020 13:29

As you say, indefinite, depending on novel length and complexity, the amount of changes and divergence from the novel's ideal, speed of editor and available time and lots of other things. It sounds helpful that you've been keeping 'to do' list up to date regarding changes.

Easter sounds like a plan. Will you get a friendly reader to look at it then?

Good luck.

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Nore · 17/12/2020 13:49

I first do a big structural edit, sorting out things like plotting, pace, characterisation, the order in which events are told, movements between different plotlines, timelines or POV, the shape of the novel, the resolution of different strands etc. The big storytelling stuff. Sometimes I write a synopsis at this point to help with the shape of things.

The second big edit is do is smaller-scale -- are the character voices consistent, does the narrative voice wobble, are individual scenes/minor characters/settings earning their keep, is the dialogue consistent with each character, have I reused that metaphor, have I made the sun set twice in a scene, has it taken too long for the kettle to boil or has the baby been born in an unfeasibly short time, could the police feasibly have got there when I say they did, didn't character X go to Place Y two years before so would know his way around etc etc.

Then a copyedit cum proof-read.

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Pl242 · 17/12/2020 14:15

Thank you @Nore and thanks again @Zilla1. All great tips. Going to decide on my approach and then start once I’ve got some distance from the text.

Perhaps I’ll aim to have done my edits by Easter and then share it with some others. Though like all things reckon I’ll only know how long it’s taking once I’m in it.

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