Every winter hundreds of people all over the world willingly dive into a frozen body of water. Insane, right? It’s called the polar bear plunge and it’s done in the name of charity. I admire these brave and generous souls. It must be scary, not to mention extremely uncomfortable, to strip down to your skivvies and run full tilt into an icy lake.
This winter I will be taking a different sort of plunge. Instead of diving into frigid water, I will be plunging into the wild, wild world of editing a novel.
In a previous post I revealed how long it took me to finish my first draft – too long! I don’t want to repeat that same mistake with editing. Polar plungers know by instinct not to stay too long in the cold water. I mean, you don’t want to end up like Leonardo di Caprio in the Titanic, am I right? A quick icy plunge is all fun adrenaline and happy games, a too long submersion is death by hypothermia.
Brooke recently warned us about getting lost in the editing spiral and I am determined to make my editing journey efficient and mercifully quick. T0 do that I need to get my act together in a major way. So I am making a plan and sticking to it! Here are my five steps to a complete second a draft:
Step 1: Take a break
I’ve already completed this step. I haven’t looked at my story since August, yeesh that’s a long time, whoopsie! I can hardly remember what I wrote, but that’s a good thing for one important reason: I’m coming back to my story with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are important because if you begin the revision process immediately you are still too familiar with your work. To edit effectively, you need to possess objectivity, which means you need time to forget. I’ve been hiding from my draft for five months so now I’m ready to tackle it with cold, objective clarity. Though I probably shouldn’t have waited longer than three months. It’s hard not to disconnect from your work after nearly half a year off. Oh well, lesson learned.
Step 2: Double check the map
When you find yourself facing a long and arduous journey through confusing, uncertain territory, it’s best to pack a map. The map of your story is an outline. I’m going to put in a lot of time up front in the editing process making sure my plot is airtight. The plan is to spend the month of February combing my draft for plot holes, timeline errors, unanswered questions, and incomplete scenes. These are the problems that cannot go unattended. As Brooke told us in her last post, a story needs to be complete and make sense. I do not want to enter the second draft without a sensical and complete plot. Knowing exactly where the story is going and how it gets there, step by step will save me a ton of editing effort down the road. Plus, a thorough read through will identify the problems that need fixing.
Step 3: Plunge into Editing
Once I have my airtight plot ironed out I’m planning to take that icy cold plunge and jump right into revising. I’ve never attempted this before and I’m a little nervous. I want to do a good job but I don’t want to spend too much time in the icy water. I don’t want hypothermia, I want to finish a second draft! The name of the game is discipline. I’m not yet sure how I will be fitting editing into my busy life but ideally I’d like to commit to two hours a day, five days a week. Stay tuned for an update on my progress.
Step 4: Contact the Beta Readers
Other human beings are indispensable to the editing process. Beta readers can be literary minded friends and family or they can be paid professionals. While they aren’t editors, they are essential. Like in step one, you need fresh eyes on the story. If you don’t get other eyes on your story then you are operating in a vacuum and your story will suffer for it. Another human is going to see things that you will not. Face it, as writers we are in love with our characters and our stories, and love, as they say, is blind. Beta readers will see flaws in your favorite character’s development and they will point out when your descriptions aren’t clear. I’m excited to have a second draft that makes enough sense to share, and I have a few literary lovers in my life who are excited to receive.
Step 5: Make it Shiny & Pretty
I’m not going to worry about step number five until I have a second draft that I can be proud of. While working on draft two I will correct and polish as I go but I’m not going to focus on nit-picking my grammar, word choice, or punctuation. I’m going to save that joyful task for later. After the first round of revisions and beta readers I’ll polish up my sentences and make my story shine. Anyway, it’s for the best if I don’t get too far ahead of myself right now.
“The best writing is re-writing.” -E.B. White
Well, here I go, deep breath, time to edit. Wish me luck! Excuse me while I go stock up on red pens.