A question to those that have been in this situation...

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,220
Location
Edinburgh
Ok, so I have a tough meticulous methodology to writing, albeit one that is sometimes painfully slow (as the time I can afford to spend on writing is a factor unfortunately...)

But I'm making progress. I'm focused on my first novel and early in the year I finished the first draft. That felt good - but I was fully aware that this was just reaching 'base camp' on the route towards the top of Everest that was finishing a novel.

So I put it to one side for a few months, read a pile of SF - partly to clear my mind, partly to see what the market was doing and how I might fit it.

Then I dived back into the manuscript reading it cover to cover, found what I thought worked and didn't, what was missing and what was too much (or needed cut out totally!)

So now I'm going deep into the re-write and really enjoying it. I suppose the goal of this second draft is to get the manuscript into a state that is 'fit for human consumption'. Or to put it another way a version I won't squirm too much in embarrassment when others have a look at it.

My question is about what to do next.*


The main issue is that I'm pretty sure, for a first novel, it's currently way too big - first draft came in at 200k words, for reasons that are too long to state here. I am trying, as part of the second draft to be succinct and quite ruthless in culling. But after revising 9 chapters, that does not seem to be working!

Now I have a member of my family who is willing and keen to go through any manuscript that I am producing - and although he has the same science education as me, (so that will be helpful for the science bits :) ) - he is not a writer nor connected to any writing profession. Hence his help, although always gratefully received, may be limited. But then he would also be free. (He may be a good copy editor though.)

At some point in the process I was definitely going to pay for a professional or semi-professional content editor.

Initially I was going to finish the 2nd draft, give it to my willing helper and then as part of a 3rd draft re-write, really concentrate on cutting down word count - and getting a content editor in at the end of that stage.

But would it be much more beneficial for me to search out an experienced content editor at the end of 2nd draft - as their advice at that stage would likely be far more invaluable and should result in me learning a hell of lot faster and getting a much better and quicker 3rd draft?

Or is submitting about 200k words to a professional content editor likely to bankrupt me :)

-------------------------------------

* Although it'll take me some time to actually get to the end of the second draft - but I'm meticulous and like to know where I'm going.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
25,733
Location
UK
When you've finished the rewrite, look at it again for editing - and be brutal with what you cut out.

Post the first 1500 words here for Critique - chances are there may be potential issues to address.

Assuming you're still happy, consider sending your first few chapters to an editor such as Teresa Edgerton here. Any big flags in the first chapters you can apply corrections to the rest after.

Then get the entire thing edited.

That's what I did. :)

Afterwards - more rewriting and self-editing, then full editing again, then line editing. Then beta-readers.

Others may do things a little different, but I can only speak from my own experience. :)
 

Laeraneth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2013
Messages
233
If it's any consolation, it looks like mine is going to come out at around 190k. Though I'm fairly certain I can trim that down to 180k, maybe even 170...

I get the impression my 'style' (if you can call it that ;P) is a bit less structured than most others. There's no single re-write, I'm editting, trimming, re-editing, adding, revising, re-reading the lot, constantly. Some chapters have had about 20 full pass-throughs with revisions and large changes each time, others came out pretty well formed first time and just get amended for clarity, typos, etc.

As such, I couldn't categorically state whether it's a first draft, or tenth ;P

For what it's worth, my plan is, once I'm fairly happy with how it feels, I'll be investigating submission procedures and things while starting something anew, so that when feedback comes back I can leap in to it afresh.

Note: This is probably a terrible plan :) but I suppose I have to start somewhere!

(also, once I'm happy with it, bits might turn up here... if I'm brave enough)
 
Last edited:

Bowler1

Senile Supporter
Supporter
Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
4,222
Location
High Wycombe
We all learn more by doing.

I've redone a 1st draft and I really enjoyed doing it and seeing the storyline shine even more. It was a complete cut and slash as I had moved on a bit with my writing style. Be brutal in your editing is all I can say.

A professional editor is worth the money, they will push you on a little more. The truth however is like the crits here, errors can be quickly spotted and a whole book edit is not likely to yield additional insight to a good 20k-30k edit. Anyway, I think the 20k submission is where you want to get all the polish in, after that your Agent will work with you (assuming you get one of course).

I think my reworked plot is good enough that I plan to return to it a 3rd time. Some stories demand to be told (or so I keep telling myself!).
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
15,061
Location
California
If it's too long, you may also find that the best thing to do is to divide it into two books. That might be a better solution than editing it down too ruthlessly, because you may lose things that need to be there. It depends on the book. Maybe dividing it will make for two books that are too short. Or it might be that there is no reasonable place to divide it. (Although if you really, really look you might find one after all. Or the right place to divide it could be something that somebody else discovers for you.)

There could be any number of solutions to the problem which a writing group or beta readers might suggest, before you decide to spend your money on someone like me.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,220
Location
Edinburgh
Post the first 1500 words here for Critique - chances are there may be potential issues to address.

Funny to think that I first joined this site because of the critique section...yet to this day I still haven't submitted anything. Best laid plans I suppose...:)

That's what I did. :)

From what you've written about your own writing process, it seems to resonant with mine - so yes I pay attention to your experiences!

Note: This is probably a terrible plan :) but I suppose I have to start somewhere!

Laeraneth - it took me a few fruitless years of attempting to put pen to paper before I cracked the 'secret' of writing. And that was: every individual has an individual way of writing. And as long as every day you wake up wanting to do more, then its a good way.

We all learn more by doing.

I think my reworked plot is good enough that I plan to return to it a 3rd time. Some stories demand to be told (or so I keep telling myself!).

I totally agree Bowler - I'm envisaging at least three major re-writes of this novel, and I'm just starting on the first one. :) I am hoping that as I continue on this, I will get better and quicker!

The truth however is like the crits here, errors can be quickly spotted and a whole book edit is not likely to yield additional insight to a good 20k-30k edit. Anyway, I think the 20k submission is where you want to get all the polish in, .

Polish yes, I see what you are saying, unfortunately from a full novel perspective, just reading the first 30k will not solve my (possibly intractable) problem that overall there just is no way to get this tale down to a more manageable 120k.


If it's too long, you may also find that the best thing to do is to divide it into two books. That might be a better solution than editing it down too ruthlessly, because you may lose things that need to be there. It depends on the book. Maybe dividing it will make for two books that are too short. Or it might be that there is no reasonable place to divide it. (Although if you really, really look you might find one after all. Or the right place to divide it could be something that somebody else discovers for you.)

Yep TE, you've kinda hit the nail on head there with this comment. If I were to keep the story more or less as it is, and really edit down ruthlessly, I think I might (but it's an iffy might) get to sort of 140-150k. But my intuition is that, just keeping the things that need to be there will mean it'll always come in a fair whack higher.

Just by chance however, the story as it stands naturally came out in 4 parts. Hurrah! problem solved, two books of about 100k each! Well possibly. Hell, it might even carve out three books (in some ways re: the story this is more logical) but then actually I think they might be too short for the genre I'm writing for...

So lots of options and solutions even available now as I'm re-writing , but I'm generally far to close to tree trunks to see if I'm in a wood or not :). I definitely need another independent viewpoint that can give me sensible, fair and most importantly down-to-earth honest opinions.

There could be any number of solutions to the problem which a writing group or beta readers might suggest, before you decide to spend your money on someone like me.

This is I think the best immediate solution - however you'd think it'd be easy to find a SF writing group somewhere in North East London - but no. SF reading groups aplenty, the writers are all hiding it seems. And no idea how to get a good set of beta readers either...if anyone has any ideas please post :) !!

For the moment till I solve this conundrum, I will continue apace on the 2nd draft re-write keeping it in one piece and the story as I envisioned it - I'll see what comes out.
 

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
5,345
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
I had a similar problem with a book and had to cut it in half and to do that I had to find the most reasonable place and that took quite a bit of editing after the fact to redirect the plot a bit in both halves and to maintain the continuity.

I generally edit twice through before throwing it at the help to do a reality check and then there might be five or more edits involved before I send it out the the paid editors. Depending on where you get the edit and what they consider a content edit it can get fairly pricey, but if you intend on self publishing it's the better way to go.
 

JonH

Refreshed and Renewed
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Messages
299
Location
Joined a critiquing forum in the early nineties, w
You could put it through a bunch of alpha readers after this edit, to get a feel for which scenes work and which don't. Even an online one, for example Critters Writers Workshop, could prove useful. You won't necessarily get the sort of responses you might from a professional writers group, but if you know what and where the problems are, you might find it possible to come up with solutions of your own.

As for writers groups, you could ask around at Loncon. That's what I plan to do.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,220
Location
Edinburgh
and that took quite a bit of editing after the fact to redirect the plot a bit in both halves and to maintain the continuity.

Yes this is the stumbling block I feel, not so much continuity, but it would need redevelopment of the end of part 2 to make a satisfactory ending, and a redevelopment of part 3 to make a reasonable beginning (and as I said conceivably it could be split into three, so there's that bigger redevelopment to think about as well). For the moment I think I'll get draft 2 into a single book state - then when I see how bigger or smaller the wordcount has got - perhaps the decision to cut or not will be much more obvious.

Luckily reasonable places to cut the book aren't too much of a problem - there's one ~1/3rd of the way through, one ~1/2th of the way through and a final one ~2/3rds of the way through :) (Actually purely by chance. I wrote the first draft purely as 'one-shot')

You could put it through a bunch of alpha readers after this edit, to get a feel for which scenes work and which don't. Even an online one, for example Critters Writers Workshop, could prove useful. You won't necessarily get the sort of responses you might from a professional writers group, but if you know what and where the problems are, you might find it possible to come up with solutions of your own.

As for writers groups, you could ask around at Loncon. That's what I plan to do.

Ta JonH,

Well I do have one alpha reader willing to read the whole thing, and although he's not a writer and he's not a big SF&F buff, and he's family (so I will definitely take any positives he comes up with, with a bucket of salt), he is at least free and curious :p

I tried Critters a long while back, but it became exhausting - I was sending back essays twice as long as the short stories I was reviewing!

If anything interesting shows up at Loncon with regard about writers groups, I would love to hear - unfortunately I have a deadline with the HMRC regarding a large wadge of tax about two weeks before it starts, so I'm on beans on toast till that's settled, and other spending is curtailed :(

If I independently find anything on London writers groups do you want me to drop you a PM about my discoveries?
 

BelgarionOz

Writer Extraordinaire!
Joined
Apr 29, 2014
Messages
70
My first one came in at over 200k, it shrank a bit after all my editing but I'm not sure what the end total was. In the end it comes down to the story though. If you dit out bits just to lower the word count because people tell you you should then you risk damaging the story. And in the end that's what people are willing to pay money for, not a certain number of words or a certain number of pages, but the story.
 

Fishbowl Helmet

Ask the next question...
Joined
May 14, 2012
Messages
954
For what it's worth, most of the suggestions made here are good ones.

Submit a section to the Critique forum here. That will get you looking at the work from others people's perspective. No, it's not a complete start-to-finish edit, but it's a great start. Once the critique is done, look for the same issues other members have spotted in the rest of your work. This will help a lot.

Pick up Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. It's an amazing book. This will help a lot too.

Once you've done all that, maybe workshop the novel. Sub a later section to the Critique forum. Lather, rinse, repeat. Once you've gotten it to where you think the copy editing stuff is done, you can look into freelance editors for a more developmental, global edit.

Some rates you might be looking at: EFA: Resources: Editorial Rates
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
19,015
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
Re your experience on critters - sadly, if you want good betas you'll have to crit back - a lot. I spent 2 years either writing or critting and still do a lot of it.
Re writing groups - I get mine from here, online. But, again, recipricity was the key.
For me I go a few excellent betas - and they are - editor now.
 

psychotick

Dangerously confused
Joined
Apr 8, 2011
Messages
2,068
Location
Rotorua, New Zealand
Hi,

My view is that you get it to the best state you can then you take the plunge and find some beta readers.

What you're looking for at this stage is not editing. No doubt they will find some errors and that will be useful. But what you need first is their assessment of the story. What works, what doesn't. What they understood and what they didn't. And don't even consider cutting. Don't even think about word counts.

Once its back from them and you've pulled it all back together the next step is looking at the writing. Is it too verbose or too tight? Does it have a good meter? Good word choices? Is it too active or too passive? For this a critique group is your best group where you can run your writing past other writers.

Then, the final step is editing. Here you don't necessarily need a professional because they do cost an arm and a leg. But you do want someone who knows their stuff.

And as for word counts - screw them. My current WIP is over 200k and it will end up around 220 - 230. I've got one book out at 250k. So what? I publish myself so I don't have to worry about the views of agents etc. The only views I care about are those of my readers and I have never once seen a review saying this book is too long. (Sometimes that the only problem with the book is that its covers are too far apart - but that's a different matter!)

Cheers, Greg.
 

JonH

Refreshed and Renewed
Joined
Apr 28, 2014
Messages
299
Location
Joined a critiquing forum in the early nineties, w
If anything interesting shows up at Loncon with regard about writers groups, I would love to hear - unfortunately I have a deadline with the HMRC regarding a large wadge of tax about two weeks before it starts, so I'm on beans on toast till that's settled, and other spending is curtailed :(

I would be happy to let you know. Sorry to hear about HMRC.

If I independently find anything on London writers groups do you want me to drop you a PM about my discoveries?

Thank you. That would be very kind.
 

Laeraneth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2013
Messages
233
What you're looking for at this stage is not editing. No doubt they will find some errors and that will be useful. But what you need first is their assessment of the story. What works, what doesn't. What they understood and what they didn't. And don't even consider cutting. Don't even think about word counts.

I'm glad you said this, because this is what I am currently doing even if it didn't come to mind while I was describing what I've done ;P
Might just be the fact that everything I've been doing the last couple of months I've just been lumping under 'editing' in my own mind, but as you say, word count and simple errors aren't what I'm looking for.

What I am doing is removing redundancy, clearing up discrepancies that have crept in between things said in chapter five and referred back twenty chapters later, rewriting passages that feel flat, tightening up waffle, making sure the impact is there where it needs to be.
In short... refining the content.

I guess it's better described as 'finishing' rather than editing. Once I can read through the whole thing and not think "that's not clear... even to me" then I'll be putting things up for other people to look at. (and shoving the whole thing under my wife's nose and going and hiding for several hours :))
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,220
Location
Edinburgh
Re your experience on critters - sadly, if you want good betas you'll have to crit back - a lot. I spent 2 years either writing or critting and still do a lot of it.
Re writing groups - I get mine from here, online. But, again, recipricity was the key.
For me I go a few excellent betas - and they are - editor now.


Hi Springs,

Re critting and reciprocity, yes it's more or less my fault.

The problem I suppose is that the average daily length of time I can spend focused on writing altogether is relatively low and my "stubborn shear bloodied minded" slow approach meant I had to make hard decisions about what I could commit to.

As: even now after all years and work I've put into writing, in my eyes I still have no work ready to be critiqued :)

But, I'm about 2-3 weeks away from finally getting someone else to look at something (Hurrah!) . If I'd committed to having a regular weekly critiquing way back in 2012 then I think, in all honesty, this 'breakthrough' moment would be arriving late 2015 or, god forbid, way into '16.

So I've focused on 'getting something in the bag'. Although many of you will no doubt be shaking your heads going, crivens that's bloody slow. :)

Now I'm sure you'd argue, I'm missing out a lot. Yes critiquing can be immensely useful for the those critting and building trust with others takes a lot of time and hard work. I am fully aware of this! But for my writing sanity, I need at least something banked that can be sent out to whoever (although of course I am probably unlikely to do this for ages :p)
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,220
Location
Edinburgh
Hi,

What you're looking for at this stage is not editing. No doubt they will find some errors and that will be useful. But what you need first is their assessment of the story. What works, what doesn't.

Thanks psychotick, loads of good advice.

I originally thought not of general editors, but of those that concentrated on content...but I may have completely misunderstood what a content editor actually does.

Cheers
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
19,015
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
I wasn't getting st you, VB, and I hope it didn't sound that way. I'm aware everyone likes different expectations re critting and time for it etc. I'm just trying to say if you go down the wriitng group/beta route there is an expectation you'll give back and it can be very time consuming, that's all. Whereas an editor drinks in your money instead. ;)

Ps I don't mind critting a couple of chapters if it helps. Pm me if so. I don't have the time availability to do more, though. Sorry. :(
 

Similar threads


Top