On June 24th, I was a bit past Chapter 35 out of 46, and decided to get a head start on my editing.
Storytime! It was the very last day of my week off from work, and in the time before my three-hour drive home, I said goodbye to my grandparents and drove to a relatively small town nearby, flashdrive in hand, where I pulled up to a pretty dead Staples to print off the chapters that I had finished in my manuscript.
I’ve never printed anything off at a Staples before, so after getting some semi-awkward help at the printers, I got the big machine started.
So it took a lot longer than I thought it would, and I was expecting it to take a while. After a really hefty chunk had been printed, I picked it up and flipped through it to see what chapter we were on. It must have only been like chapter 7 or so, because I knew there was still a loooong way to go. I also forgot to number my pages before printing, so even though I knew how many pages total it would be, I could only keep track via chapter numbers.
After maybe fifteen minutes, the thing was done, and I went to the pens and binder clips aisle and bought the EXTRA large binder clips plus some fancy red Precise V5 pens that I remembered a good friend of mine using in high school during Creative Writing classes. I go to the check-out, two hundred and fifty pages of printed manuscript tucked in my arm, and buy the other two things. The lady at the register didn’t ask any questions. I feel like she wanted to. 250 pages is a lot, guys. It’s quite the stack.
It barely fit into the largest binder clip they had, and the manuscript isn’t even done yet. When I print the last… I don’t know, 70 pages or so… it’ll probably have to go in another clip.
Either way, fast forward another three hours or so, when I finally get home and can appreciate its beauty, I am so terribly proud of it. Those 250 pages of words right there are mine. No matter how bad some of it is, I can at least find pride in that.
And as I’ve begun editing, there are a lot of red marks on those pristine black and white pages, I’ve started to get a sense of exactly what kind of story I’m trying to tell and how I need to fix it so I can tell it properly.
For one thing, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve adjusted the ending in this draft alone. It means plot holes and unfinished business in the current draft as I’ve taken some things out and added some things in, but each change in the ending brought me closer to how I realized I wanted it to end.
My little Precise V5 pen has marked plenty of problems in my manuscript, but the way I see it, I’m not really critiquing my work.
There’s this quote I found by Shannon Hale that I’ve taken a liking to.
I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
My “first” draft (and I say 1st even though it’s technically my 5th because this is the draft that I took a character out of and had to rework several scenes and other major bits of plot) is sand in a sandbox, and my red pen is sculpting a blueprint out of it. When I get to “the end” (and my estimates put the finish date at July 27th), and when the edits are all done, I’ll know exactly what I need to do with the novel to make pacing feel more on track, to make descriptions work a little better, and to make characters stay within character.
I’ve already discovered a handful of chunks that describe who my characters are, simply through interaction. Those have little brackets, too, just like the big-chunk problems do, but these ones have a “Really good” notation right next to them. Those are the standards I want to hold myself to, and I’m really eager to try and adjust the rest of my novel to match.
Here’s an example. Not all chapters are this marked up, but I believe this was one of those chapters that I had some difficulty writing. That, or I just need some work on action scenes.
I kept the chapter short when I wrote it because chapters 3-5 include an event that I’d originally wanted both PoV characters to get a chance to comment on. Unfortunately, all three chapters felt a bit abrupt during the read-through, so on top of all those red marks, I also plan on combining the three chapters to give it a better flow.
I’m fifteen chapters into the edit and will continue to take it chapter by chapter as July progresses.
Moral of the story, I guess? Editing can feel like quite the scare when you do it on the first draft or two, but as things move forward, you start to realize the editing is just as magical as the writing. Red ink is not there to attack your black ink; it’s there to enhance it.
“Don’t fashion me into a maiden that needs saving from a dragon. I am the dragon and I will eat you whole.”