There’s nothing akin to the agony of editing your book. This suffering goes beyond the whole “kill your darlings” because, at least for me, I’ll gladly kill my darlings if it means saving my book.
No, the agony for me is the one thousand and one revisions my book has to go through. I already did one revision, which was a sweep of the book, pulling out scenes and sentences, and adding new ones if I saw fit. It was more of a holistic approach, which I completed in a week.
However, the next two weeks are going to be me focusing on dun dun dun: setting. The setting that I apparently failed to convey when I wrote my first draft. The setting that I’m going to have to describe beautifully if I want my book to work. The setting that I’m not sure how to describe.
However, to keep sane I think the best approach I can take to my editing is to do a number of revisions, each time focusing on one aspect:
Revision 1: Holistic: Go through the book, reacquaint yourself with the details and the scenes, and try pulling out what doesn’t work. Gut your work. Kill your darlings, or if that’s too gory a thought for you, lay your darlings to rest in a beautiful silk-lined casket and set them out to sea. Focus on sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, so that when you move on to other revisions, you aren’t distracted by those sorts of things.
Gut your work
Revision 2: Setting: Weave the senses into your book. Don’t overdo it, but make your reader feel, with all their senses, your scenes. Focus more on adding in sound, sight, temperature, touch, color, tactile experiences, wetness, dryness, humidity, solidness, softness, dampness, harshness, anything that brings your world to life. Describe something as being chestnut-colored instead of brown. Describe the sound as tinkling instead of light and airy. Describe the feel of the cliff under her hands as she climbed it, instead of saying only that she grunted. Make the setting active, interacting with the characters, or having the characters interact with it. Don’t just have the setting be a backdrop that is barely noticeable. Bring out the life of your setting. View your setting as its own character, and I think you will do well.
View your setting as its own character
Revision 3: Focus on the emotions of your character. Now that you have the setting down, make sure your character responds to it. Your character’s setting should challenge them, interact with them, push them, reward them, punish them, twist them around and make them dizzy. Make your character a part of the setting, and make the setting a part of your character. Have your characters and their setting hold hands. Focus on events: how do your characters behave? Do they only react? They should do more than just react to events; they should create events, change events. Emotions fuel your character. Emotions and actions are your character. Your character is nothing without emotion, unless your character is all about not having emotions.
Have your characters and their setting hold hands.
Your character is nothing without emotion, unless your character is all about not having emotions.
Revision 4: Focus on plotholes. Are there any? Does everything make sense chronologically, assuming time works in your book as it does in our world. Is your plot fluid? Your plot should not only make sense, it should be interesting, have twists, and bewitch a reader.
Your plot should not only make sense, it should be interesting, have twists, and bewitch a reader.
Revision 5: World-recreation. Make sure your world fits in with your setting, and that everything is interactive. You could probably do this during the setting revision, but it should be its own focus at some point. Is your world a sprawling expanse, or s single room in a lonely house? Either way, make sure that your world is interesting for both your characters and your readers. Interesting doesn’t have to mean unique or out-of-this-world. It could be boring, really, in the sense that you character is bored by their world. Regardless, make your world alive for your readers and interactive with them. Your world should be a reflection of your characters’ behaviors. That is, your world should not be separate from your characters, but a part of their feelings and actions.
Your world should be a reflection of your characters’ behaviors.
Revision 6: Be a seamstress. Bring all the pieces together. Do another holistic revision. Do all the pieces fit together? Have you woven your strands with golden thread? If not, it’s back to step 2.
Revision 7: Let it sit. I think letting go of your story, even if only for a few weeks, is a revision in and of itself. By letting it sit, and moving on to something else to clear your mind, you’re letting your brain distance itself from the details so that when you come back to your story, you can look at it with fresh eyes and from a big-picture perspective.
Let it sit.
Revision 8: Read through your book, and holistically attend to all those previous steps mentioned. It’s holistic in a way you haven’t done before, even in step 6. This time, you’ve spent time away from your MS and can focus on the bigger picture and the general themes of your story, your characters, setting, and everything else you should have already attend to, but can now do with fresh eyes and mind. Give your book one more holistic revision, and focus on the big picture. Remember that revision is re-envisioning.
Remember that revision is re-envisioning.
*Note: This article was originally published on January 19, 2016.
**Header image courtesy of Google images.