Wednesday, November 13, 2019

And they're off... by Cathy Ace

Craft: Describe your editing/revision process. How do you make that mess of a first draft into a real book?

In a word, my editing/revision process is…PAINFUL!

I love writing my first draft, I hate the first round of editing, then increasingly loath every round of editing beyond that. 

I have likened my writing process to three-day eventing, when horses are allowed to be…well, horses…during the steeplechase – galloping, leaping, running with their heads held high.

Then they have to make a much more controlled run during the show-jumping.

Finally, they are forced to act like ballerinas during the dressage competition. 

I feel this way about writing…the fun is in the frantic writing of the first draft, then I have to finesse a little in the first round of edits, followed by finagling all the tiniest details in each round of edits thereafter.

The thing is that – love it or hate it – editing in this increasingly detailed way is critically important for every manuscript, if you want that manuscript to become the best, most readable book it can become.

Specifically, I will just let my writing flow for the first draft: my plan is to keep my head down for as long as it takes to get from the beginning of the book to the end, following the detailed chapter outlines I have already written in my notepad. I type fast (and fairly inaccurately) for as many hours as I can, then I print out what I have written and mark up the pages for obvious problems/typos etc, make those amendments on the digital document, then start again from that point with the new input. It usually takes four to five weeks of this for the first draft to emerge. I then give myself as long a break as possible (at least a week) before I go back to a printed version of the draft and read from the beginning to the end, making notes about queries I have, name/time/place changes/issues, the need to rewrite a paragraph/scene etc…but I don’t make those changes at that time – I get to the end, then make the changes on the digital copy, then print that version out and start again. Over and over, until I feel it’s almost there, then I take another break, then go back and start over.

How often do I do this? It’s varied from three times to nineteen. 

Yes, n-n-n-n-nineteen! 

Like I said – it’s PAINFUL! 

Want to see what all this attention produces? 
You can find out more about my work at my website by CLICKING HERE. 


Paul D. Marks said...

Nineteen times is pretty good, Cathy. I also have a lot of drafts, polishing each one just a little more than the one before.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Paul - 19 was my limit...for that book. But my limit seems to increase with each new novel!