While roaming the internet one morning (procrastinating, in truth), I stumbled across a great quote from Jenna Morris at Literally YA: Remember, not many people have died from editing.
How awesome is that? Say it again: not many people have died from editing.
This quote really rang true for me because as much as I enjoy editing and re-writing, I have no idea what I’m actually supposed to do. Editing, for me, usually consists of reading the manuscript over and over, changing a paragraph here, a word there, maybe adding in a scene or two. Yes, the manuscript improves, but it doesn’t sparkle and that’s what I need to learn: how to polish the beast-that-was-once-a-first-draft until it shines and glimmers and sparkles.
I’m taking some editing classes with the fabulous Kim Wilkins and I’m learning structure. I’ve learnt to start by searching for those words I know I over-use – “that” and “just” – and eliminate them. If I hesitate on whether I really need the word, it goes and I can usually admit the sentence is stronger for it.
Another editing tool I’ve learnt is the scene map. My hyper-methodical brain loves the concept of a scene map. It allows me to indulge my love of spreadsheets and organising information and yet also provides a lens through which to view the manuscript more methodically.
A scene map lists each scene, one after another. It’s not an outline to be completed before the writing starts, but a review of how the storyline actually unfolded. I have a column of scene numbers (which will eventually be grouped into chapters); next to that is a brief description of what happens within each scene and who the viewpoint character is. A third column is for my notes: heighten the tension here, or develop a relationship better in this scene, or there’s crucial information missing here.
The scene map helps me to view the manuscript more objectively and note where there are problems. Then I can work back through, scene by scene, and fix those problems. If I only have ten minutes in which to work, I can pluck a small task from my scene map and get stuck straight into it. I can’t wait to get to the end of this first draft and start applying my new editing tools.
So tell me, what editing tools do you use?