Not to be confused with being drafted into the military. Which, with Memorial Day on the horizon, let’s show our respect daily to those who have served our country. It does not matter if you are for or against war, men and women are dying for your sake. To protect you. To ensure your freedoms. This is the greatest act of love, and when you think of it that way, I’m sure it will soften your heart.
-End of Soapbox-
Now where were we? Ah yes, Drafting. Understanding that it has only been a day since the last lesson, this one is for those who have completed the first draft of their manuscript. It can be autobiography, fiction, nonfiction, magazine column, blogging, et cetera. This is relevant to all fields of writing.
Now first, I need to point out ‘do as I say, not as I do’, only because my goal with this blog is to write 500 words and edit later. And by edit, I mean I give it a quick proofread and that’s it.
That being said, let us begin. This is one method of editing, you do not have to follow it step by step, but the point is you have to edit. The first step which is probably the most helpful, and if your deadline allows, take a break from your manuscript. It is too fresh in your mind, you have been training yourself to write daily, and you are not going to look at it objectively. I recommend at least a week, but that is entirely up to you. Once you have finished the haitus, step again into the wonderful world of your story.
This second draft is where you place your work on the chopping block. I always go in with an analytical eye, this is where I will look out for plot holes, discrepancy in character, mistakes in the world itself, and, yes, grammar and spelling. I do a lot of cut, paste, and rewrites, because a lot of times my first draft is a piece of crap.
Yes, I said that. My first draft is a piece of crap. That is not being self-depreciating. That is being honest and humble. You cannot throw a first draft at your agent or editor and expect them to be wowed. They will be too annoyed with all the errors they discover to appreciate your awesomeness.
The third draft you will want to print out, if you haven’t already. (Make sure the pages are numbered when you hit print. I always forget that step). Now you can go through with your Mighty Red Pen. It is easier to find errors on printed paper, that is why many editors will ask you to send them a full printed copy. Read through it carefully. Take your time. Scribble notes and corrections at will. Then return to the computer and type all those corrections into your manuscript.
Note: You can have separate copies of your manuscript if it will help you keep track of the edits. E.g. 1) First Draft.doc, 2) Second Draft.doc, et cetera.
Fourth draft is where you find a willing and able volunteer to read your work. Whether it is a coworker at the newspaper office or a friend in your writing group, give them the full manuscript to review. Give them a list of things you want them to keep an eye out for–plot holes, character development, discrepancies, et cetera. Once you have it back, add those corrections into the latest manuscript (Fourth Draft.doc or Ultimate Manuscript).
The fifth draft you finally send to your editor. Now you wait, biting your nails and anxiety ridden, as they spend an alloted amount of eternity going over your work. Best case scenario, they return it in one piece. Worst case…That-Which-We-Do-Not-Speak-Of. When they return your manuscript, go over the edits and suggestions with steel skin. Brace yourself. Sometimes it’s not too bad, sometimes it’s very, very bad. But you must turn your eye to the massacre and make sense of it.
It doesn’t end here. Depending on your editor, they will want to review your corrections. So put all those into the computer, rewrite what needs be, look it over, and feel proud. Then send it back to the doctor editor. They will look over the manuscript, seeing how you took their suggestions. You can send them notes of your own if you felt their suggestion was unnecessary for your story. You have the power to say no, but before you do, at least entertain their suggestions. I have rewritten whole endings and realized my editor was, of course, right.
Think of an editor as your proverbial wife; they are always right.
This process goes on for awhile. The editor may run a final proofread to catch any slippery typos. Then you have to let it go, knowing you raised your child up with all the tools it needs to succeed in life. You have to let the bird fly the nest. Send it out into the world.
Tomorrow we’ll go over where to find editors. Yes. The journey continues.
I lied. We can’t find editors yet, you know why? We have to learn how to talk to editors first. Queries, here we come!
May the Force be with you.