Welcome back to part two in my Editing Jesscapades series. If you missed it, check out part one: Focus Editing.
Okay. So. I am armed with my new shiny Sentence; I know more clearly what roles my primary characters fill. What next?
Next, for me, comes the Read Through.
Even though it's terrible for the trees, I have to print out the manuscript to do this. It's the entire reason, in fact, why I bought a laser printer :D Seeing your words in a different format to how you wrote them is absolutely imperative in the editing stage; it helps you see what's actually on the page, not what you think is on the page. If you really don't want to print out, or if you know you'll need to make major changes and will want to print it out after those changes, try changing the font style of your manuscript, or edit in a different program to what you wrote in so that the text looks different.
So, I've printed my novel, attacked it with the holepunch, and shoved it in a folder. Now what?
Next, I break out a blue or a red pen (not black, because it's printed in black), get a notebook handy (which I dedicate to the editing of this novel, and put the novel title on the front, etc) and start reading.
At this stage, I'm NOT looking to edit the manuscript. My purpose is to read through and find out what's actually made it to the page, and what hasn't. If there's a glaring typo, or the perfect rephrase hits me as I read, I'll jot that down on the manuscript, but I'm not going to let myself get bogged down by it.
What I do scrawl all over the manuscript is numbers. And in my notebook, I write down the corresponding number, and I make a note.
The note can be anything you particularly want to remember about this bit of writing, something you want to remember to add in here, or ways in which you want to change it. If you think of something, note it down.
There are a few things in particular I look for:
1) Dropped threads & references
Dropped threads and references are things that you introduce into the story that just randomly disappear. I have two characters in Jessapades, Matt and River, who appear several times in the first third, and then are never heard from again. Matt I'm deleting; River I need to figure out how to work in.
Promises are the clues you leave in the text - to yourself, to your readers, knowingly or subconsciously - that something is going to happen, or that this little point is important. Like in Jesscapades, where Gage refers to John as being really powerful - this promises that I'll bring in John's power somehow, that he will discover how powerful he is, and make use of it. Etc.
Promises can be large, or they can be tiny. But remember: every thing you write must be significant. Everything points to something. Make note of those things that jump out at you as you read, either to beef them up and make them mean something, or to edit out.
3) Plot Problems
Things that I either dropped and want to work back in, or that totally won't work with where I took the book in the second half. Things that need to be changed to make sense; things I can use to fix plot problems later on.
This is where you look out for characters that change height (Harry), motivations that mood swing faster than PMS and thus make no sense (Jess!) and naming conventions that fluctuate (chi/qi).
Lastly, I keep an eye out for anything that just plain seems off. Illogical actions (John not having a weapon on him), illogical reactions (Jess running away), illogical plot twists or skipping from one thing to another without showing how/why (John researching Jess's background), or illogical scenes - scenes that don't fit, or don't make sense, or otherwise don't have a reason for being.
There are other things you can look out for too, but these are the main categories of things I watch for. The key point here is to resist trying to edit the actual manuscript (because even if you think you know what's wrong with it, and how to fix it, I guarantee you don't know everything you'll need to fix until after Step Three, or even later) and to make notes on absolutely everything you think you need to change, delete, or add in terms of plot, structure and character (NOT language; we're not editing yet, remember!).
If your manuscript's pretty clean, you won't end up with many notes. If it's messy, you'll have a lot more.
I think I have about 85 notes for Jesscapades, which is 189 pages printed. 85 for 189 isn't bad; that's less than one note every two pages. So I'm pretty pleased; it's a mess, but a fixable one.
And that's all there is to this stage! Quick and easy, and you can get through it in a couple of hours if you have the time :) Unlike the next step, which I've been struggling with for nearly a week. But you'll have to tune in next time to hear about that ;)
Until then - keep writing! And if you don't write, at least smile :P