|This is Janice. And I want to steal her sweater. 🙂|
Recently, I discovered Janice Hardy’s blog. Janice is the author of the middle grade Healing Wars Trilogy, but her website is a treasure trove of useful information for aspiring authors. She covers everything and has even begun offering critiques on short sections (particularly opening sections) of reader’s stories. I could probably write a couple thousand words about the information I’ve found here, but today I’m going to concentrate on one aspect: editing the first draft.
Why am I concentrating on this subject today? Because I’m in the process of doing this myself. My own method of editing has developed over the course of a few years and has fallen into a pattern that works rather well for me. First, I print my book, paperclip each chapter or section, and put the whole thing into an accordion folder. Next, I gather three writing utencils (a black pen, a bright colored pen [usually red, green, or orange], and a mechanical pencil) and a composition book (because they’re cheap). Third, I start reading, watching for things I know I have problems with (like overusing “that,” passive voice, telling instead of showing, etc.), but I do this only to make sure I’m paying attention to the details as I read. In her blog post about the difference between editing and revising, Janice makes this point:
You often hear edit and revise used interchangeably, but they really are two different things. Editing is the nitpicky, line by line tweaks that polish your text. Revision is more macro level, changing parts of the story. But how do you know when to use one over the other? I revise first, because that covers the big issues. The things that may take a lot of work. Once the story is unfolding how I want, then I edit, polishing it until it shines.
It’s a good point, and one that will inevitably save you time in the polishing process. I am definitely guilty of doing editing during the first revision, but that’s also because the first revision usually comes before I have gotten any feedback. In my head, everything is still working because no one has told me otherwise. Do I think my first draft is perfect? Heck, no. I just don’t know yet how to fix the problems I’m sure are in there somewhere. That’s where sites like Janice’s come in handy.
Within her page on editing and revising, she goes through a list of many of the large and middling issues most first drafts face, things like structure, stakes, and story arcs. She gives you questions to ask yourself as you read through your novel to help pinpoint your major issues. And, trust me, they’re good questions.
So, if you’re like me and beginning the arduous process of revising your NaNoWriMo novel, check out Janice’s blog. You may find some information that will get your draft from problematic to perfect.