Bsolah over at the Absolut Write Water Cooler has challenged bloggers to write about how we edit. He got my teeth to gritting, but I have taken up the challenge.
The first thing is to do two on screen read-throughs to catch all the obvious stuff. Then I print, then I lock and backup the files. Put the printed pages somewhere dark and dry for safekeeping. After the appropriate time, I hold before me the printed words. On the first read through I go through it quickly. I get depressed. I know I will never be a writer. I will never have the guts to start querying. But you know what? That scene where the stable boy runs from the soldiers? That was mighty fine. So, I keep reading. The part with the prophesy comes up. I enjoy that, but find it needs some tweaking. Plot is picking up. Too much description there. My red pen is FLYING now, but I am grooving. I am not such a bad writer after all. I might have something here. These dragons are cool. Who am I kidding? I must be related to Tolkien! I have no needless words! There are going to be movies made, cheap plastic rick-rack related to the movies will be given away with Happy Meals! I AM AWESOME!
Wait. What was that? That was a klunky sentence. That must go, that has no place in my opus. Is that a dangling participle? Why does he shrug his shoulders all the time, and why are my Dragongar always nodding? I am sick of nodding Dragongar. What am I writing here, bobblehead fiction?
And so it goes. Soon, I am back down on an even keel. Not so far down as the first few pages, but no longer fantasizing about Peter Jackson offering me his first born for movie rites. I go back through the whole thing again, reading much slower, doublechecking that all the weird names are spelled right. If there are changes too big to be jotted down, I just put a sticky with note: "clean up this paragraph/section". Sometimes, whole pages can be dropped out or x'd through. There is much paper shuffling as I search down the loose ends of the x'd out pages, or slight changes to paragraphs before or after. I also keep a page for notes. "Put in more references to Pratice" (my Dragongar church") or "note Biona and Jale react similarly" or "What about money?" because I had no money references in my first draft, and it was needed to make the world more real.
Now it is time to put the red changes in the computer. (Remember your backup, in case something should be corrupted, you'll have the original to go back to.) Now I begin. The first few chapters, yes, I look at the red pages religously, but after that, it's like I'm searching down the mistakes I know are coming. The thing has become like reading your name over and over again. I find more things to change and fix than I found on the read through. Whole pages of dialog get changed, as if what was there before was only stand-in. I know how my characters talk now. I should have Guy say something snarky there. Jale should not cry here, Loic would never say that in public, etc. After the red pages are done, I never want to see it again, but there is still editing to do. It must marinate, suffer another onscreen read through and then.... the place I have never gone... beta time. I have faith in this story, hell, I have faith in my series. The true test will of course, be the beta's opinion.
And that is how I edit. **curtsey, exit stage left**