Officially I’ve done only one book editing, if stories don’t count. I don’t think I was even bothered to edit before a friend made sure I took up the final stage of writing and send my novel to publisher. First porridge always gets burned. So did the book, but I don’t regret taking up the task and following it through, because until now I had only wrote what came and then left it as it was.
I gave myself time limit of three months to do the entire editing. Because I wanted to enter Estonian contest, I had to translate the entire work before I could do any editing. It taught me the value of the language in a way I can’t express.
This only left me with two actual months to get it all done and as I soon discovered, it wasn’t enough.
I started with main ideas, checking if every separated storyline did have the problems solved, if they worked with each other, if the characters had their descriptions right and if facts presented in the book held water. Most of this work was already done in preparation times, but when I started to work on it again, I couldn’t find any of them again. I was distraught and angry at myself, until mom said she found them amongst her work papers… how they got there, I had no idea, but I did some mighty winning dance.
Then another problem rose – I had real life. With writing I just did it whenever I got the flash going, but with editing, having half dead brain in the morning meant I made more mistakes than repaired them. So now I had to plan it ahead for times best suited. Here is where binding my manuscript came handy. With this I didn’t have to rely on my pc all the time and I could do it almost everywhere.
With several months in-between, the characters were like strangers too and what once looked like decent book, now started looking shallow. Especially when you translated it and the language that held the charm didn’t look better than two dogs barking. It is surprisingly depressing moment. But you can come over it – don’t let emotion win over your brain. You’re not your characters- that may happen to them, but you are the miniature god/goddess right now. It does not happen to you.
After I got the storylines all lined up and facts together, I started with grammatical check-up. After I had the second manuscript printed out and clean for new session. I think I repeated the entire process three or four times. I kept them though. Now, looking at them, they look worse than my notebooks, but they were worth it.
The last check-up I did consisted the correct spelling. I think I have some fish with it, because I think it’s very important. If you indeed read a book with coma in the middle of the word, it is seriously disturbing.
Some things I learned the hard way:
- Write in the language you will send the final work. Seriously, seriously biggest mistake I have made and I don’t want to repeat. I lost too much time on trivial translating problems I could have spent while editing.
- Use the wonderful thing called Page Break. Save your work so that your every chapter starts from new page set by page break. All the other tools in that demand line help, too, but this saves you constant need for clicking and searching. I spent two hours getting the headlines to correspond the printed version. Just because I had written it all in one row in the first place.
- Make yourself Table of Content as your first page. Much easier than have those sticky notes fall off after few weeks. Works well as a quick summery too if you name your headlines. Those sticky notes can be serious nuisance. Useful as they are, they don’t last long after reusing them again and again.
- Print it on paper. Have it binded (comb bind, wire bind, coil bind…). It really makes the difference between the sentences. Print it on one side only and with double line spacing. You won’t regret it. This way you have plenty of room for your notes, for adding paragraphs, checking facts. At first I thought I just stapler them together by chapters, but getting those booklets around was a menace – you never had the one you needed to check. So after taking an irritated walk around the town, I saw the shop, went in and had them all binded. Didn’t have that problem anymore.
- Save your work in version you print it. Meaning – after you have done all the settings, save this version as your working version. You can always reverse the settings later (if you don’t have the all-letter-styles-must-be-present sort of work). If you do this, you save yourself tons of time searching where was what on both your PC work and the one printed out. I didn’t at first. Lost myself a week searching the texts for some little mistake and dealing with the ever-changing placement of the chapters.
- “Read it out loud” does work. It changed the way I put sentences together, it also showed the entire mood of your book like placed on a plate. Dogs make good listeners, but your next door neighbors might not like to listen your one man show.
- Color code can get you banging your head. I don’t say it doesn’t work. It does. Only I would keep it as minimum as possible and as thin as possible. Unless you are checking the occurrence of your characters. I reduced back to bright yellow marker and red pen. That was it and it worked. The first two pages looked like rainbow, but I couldn’t make head or tales out of it two days later.
- There are tools that tell you how many times you’ve used one word. Use it. The results are surprising and after searching the words out, there are often far better ways to replace it. I discovered I had developed several piranha words and managed to avoid them eventually.
- Save ALL your story notes. You never regret it. Keep them organized by the story. Not only does it provide a good glimpse in the past, but it also means you can return to the roots.
- Don’t be afraid to ask help. I had a guy help me with my problem in chemistry. The first reaction of laughing like crazy soon turned in genuine interest if the theory I offered would be solid or not.
- Always DO check the spelling yourself first –trust the corrector after that. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust them eventually, but you are the one representing your work and attitude and it should show. Never be afraid to argue over it. Not over small things like commas, which I do trust my corrector, but if you feel it changes the entire sentence, you should open your mouth.
- Let your friends know what you do. They don’t always give the support you expect, but they offer it one way or the other. Even when nagging you to go for a ball game instead. Sometimes you should – rested brain is better than overworked brain.
- Make yourself a poster: “More showing, less telling.”
I counted the hours I spent on that manuscript just for fun. I had an empty page added where I wrote all the times I started and finished. In a week, it is considered normal day job if you work 40 hours per week, that’s 160 hours per month. It was approximately 150 hours per month next to everything else I did, including sleeping. But it was worth every hour, worth every discovery.
Today’s post is my response to the prompt What books are your nightstand?, this month’s topic for the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Throughout the month, you can get to know twenty (or so) other writers from various genres and backgrounds and at various places in their careers. Next stop on the tour is Tiberius Clausewitz Drusus Nero Germanicus on October 21st, 2011.