How to edit and redraft a manuscript?

Discussion in 'Workshop' started by anthorn, Jan 6, 2011.

  1.  
    anthorn

    anthorn Member

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    I know we have had a how to format a manuscript thread. (Thanks guys)

    What I would like to know is how does one edit and redraft it for publication readyness.

    I am vaguely aware its sort of finding a better way to say something but could someone please give me an in depth explenation?

    I promise you a dedication when published:)
  2.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I don't think there is a magic Five Steps to Achieve Perfect Editing, anthorn. It's a question of reading through your work and making it better. That might involve deleting extraneous adverbs and adjectives, removing repetitions of words and phrases, checking that the words used are the best ones available -- and that they are spelled correctly and mean what you think they mean. It may also involve re-writing chunks of prose so that it reads more smoothly, or inserting dialogue where there is exposition, or getting rid of stuff which simply holds up the action. And, of course, you should also be looking at plot and characterisation and pace and...

    If you think that what you have written is as good as you can make it then it's time to get someone else to look at it. If it isn't as good as you can make it, then carry on working on it for a good bit longer.
  3.  
    Mouse

    Mouse roar

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    I have found that (and this is not good for the environment!) printing the manuscript off and reading through it, making edits in pen/pencil as you go can help. Personally, I spot errors far easier on paper than reading from a screen, and I tend to read slower so get a better idea of what's good or not.
  4.  
    Glitch

    Glitch #452

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    I use text to speech software to read it back to me - more environmentally friendly than Mouse :p

    I specifically use AT&T Natural Voices as it's the best one I've heard so far.
  5.  
    Ian Whates

    Ian Whates Author and Editor

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    anthorn, as The Judge mentions, there's no magic formula to this. People have offered good advice already, but my 'top-tip' would be something you've doubtless heard before. When it's finished, put the manuscript to one side and try to forget about it for a month or so, or at least a couple of weeks. Then read through it slowly from start to finish. I'd be amazed if any number of small improvements in phrasing and word choice don't leap out the page at you, perhaps even a complete scene which you know in your heart doesn't quite work and would benefit from some restructuring.

    Ideally, then set the piece aside again and repeat the whole process, though you could carry on doing this forever and there has to come a point where you say, "that's as good as it's going to get," and submit your MS somewhere.

    Me, I'm an impatient so-and-so, and one such overhaul is as much as I've ever managed.
  6.  
    SJAB

    SJAB The storyteller

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    Me I am the other way, I keep at it, bit like chewing my own leg off. Someone has to say STOP! ENOUGH!
  7.  
    anthorn

    anthorn Member

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    Well I finished it in August and a part from checking for details when I wrote my second book I haven't looked at it
  8.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I think I read in another thread that you've come to a bit of a halt on Book 2, haven't you? If that's so, then now would be a good time to revisit Book 1 and start the editing process.

    But there's no more an easy way to edit than there is an easy way to write it in the first place. Everything depends on you putting in the work. If you're having problems with individual sections, then put some up for critique and see what is suggested there.
  9.  
    Jake Reynolds

    Jake Reynolds Wordslinger

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    For me, I have three steps when I think its ready:

    1. Read on screen, changing little mistakes as I go.
    2. Print and read, making notes of little mistakes as I go, then going through on screen and making the changes.
    3. Print and read aloud. This takes some time, but really gives you a handle on dialogue and how sentences actually read.

    It is important to do these in order, from start to finish, because then you have three complete run-throughs to highlight any structural errors, plot problems, 'dead zones' (i.e. boring bits), and so on. I find that it gives me a really good idea of how the story flows, and whether or not I'm being repetitive, dropping information too early, etc.

    Again I stress that this is simply the method I use. It is different for everyone, methinks.
  10.  
    Christian Nash

    Christian Nash ---- Never Give Up ----

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    Hard work, with this, you get what you put in.
  11.  
    Oskari

    Oskari Registered Lunatic

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    All sound advice.

    Writing and editing are, generally, opposing disciplines. The writer within is the artist and the editor within is the technician. It is the rare individual that is comfortable with the sometimes neccessary shift between the two. I suppose that's why in the publishing world that division is made a lot clearer.

    But, really, this topic is huge. If you really want to edit with more confidence then you'll have to learn the tools of an editor, at least to some degree. Some of it's pretty straightforward, but, like the goings on inside a laboratory or mechanic's shed, there are a number of very specific skills you have to learn, such as grammar and punctuation.

    The best advice I can give you is to just be honest with your words. Don't try and be anyone else but that nagging voice inside of YOU. Don't feel pressured to meet someone else's standard unless you feel your standard could be improved (you know, when advice rings true). But be careful - the biggest trap (and the surest way towards dishonesty) is not realising the true power of your unique voice/style/method/etc.

    Like I said, a HUGE topic!
  12.  
    slack

    slack within the depths

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    Some practical solutions, anthorn (if you're still reading, that is), is to start big and work small. Examine your scenes to make sure they all work together, decide whether some need to be cut or others added, check for plot inconsistencies.

    Then look at whether your scenes are dynamic -- is there tension, something that keeps the reader reading, is there conflict, is the character the same at the beginning as at the end (meaning, has he changed somehow in the scene -- the answer should nearly always be yes).

    Then focus on the actual writing, description, diction. Oftentimes what occurs first is the weakest, the most cliche. Sharpen the language, choose active over passive, strengthen verbs, etc.

    Then, after you've made the big changes and you have done everything else, check punctuation, correct spelling errors, etc.
  13.  
    Oskari

    Oskari Registered Lunatic

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    Yes, listen to Slack's advice - it's fundamental.

    Writing should be more like sculpture than painting. It's always better to have stuff to throw away than to try and add stuff later on. As I mentioned earlier, the creative side of you (the writer) should just 'go for it'. Write, scribble - just hammer away at that keyboard until your fingers bleed without much regard for doing things right. A lecturer of mine once said that it should be like a state of intoxication. What he meant by that, I think, is not to be at all critical about your writing or your ability to write at this creative time.

    Once you have a first draft, then you can introduce the critic, the judge, the executioner. Just as you locked this side of yourself away during the creative stage, it is now time to lock away the creative part of you and get to the nitty-gritty, heartless work of re-reading (and re-reading) armed with your red pen and scalpel.

    Of course, don't be hard on yourself, because just as many people find the act of creation very difficult the same applies to the act of editing. It's not easy, but it needs to be done. On a positive note, there are weirdos out there who are not only gifted editors but also find pleasure in it. ;)

    Like most things in life, it is wise to learn your craft by reading on the subject or, better still, joining a writing group or doing a course. Nothing like sharing your passion with like-minded loonies!
  14.  
    thatollie

    thatollie Kraken Addict

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    The first thing I always do is make sure the story has a decent structure; have I put everything in the story that needs to be there and are they in the right places. Then it's onto the scenes (which has been covered well) and then the narrative (which has also been well covered)... but the structure comes first because all the big details, like why the character is motivated to take the storypath, affects all the little details, like the things the character does to achieve their goals.
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    Glen

    Glen Who are you people?

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    I find that walking away from the writing helps - leave it alone for a few months. That helps you to see the writing with a bit more detachment. I don't know if there are any drawers or painters out there, but it is a similar idea to walking away from your drawing for a while, or viewing it in a mirror. You see things that you don't see if you are too close to it.

    Listen to yourself when you are re-reading. Are you engaged? Does the story make you laugh or cry? Are you eager to turn the page? If not it is unlikely your readers will be.

    You have to be ruthless too. If something doesn't work then you must fix it or lose, no matter how hard you have tried to get it right, and no matter how many times.

    btw - a great question, and some interesting replies in this thread.

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