Friday, February 11, 2011
Technical Topics -- The Final Edits
Someone asked: HOW can you tell if edits you made on work you let sit for a while are good?
I'm having A LOT of trouble with this.
Couple o' thoughts.
It seems to me the last work on the manuscript falls into three stages:
Final polish edit
It is good to know which stage are you actually in.
-- Are you committed to the major plot points? Do you feel the events make sense and they're in the right order and you are not going to fiddle with big story stuff any more?
Until you declare the plot pretty much fixed, you are still in the 'rewriting' stage, not the editing stage.
In 'rewriting' you're still dreaming up story. Your eyes are all unfocused and you get surprised by new stuff you come up with. You're not analyzing. You are still creating.
I'd say to finish this creative stage, if you can, before you start your last edits. It is frustrating to spend Tuesday nitty-grittying away at Chapter Twelve, then toss it out on Wednesday or change the POV or something.
-- The true 'final edit' process is a trip through the entire manuscript, reading out loud, fixing infelicities of language, character incongruities, plot glitches and pacing.
The final edit is going over the manuscript with a magnifying glass. it is inherently detailed, small-scale process work. The approach is starkly analytic. It works best if it proceeds as one fast, continuous run through.
-- During both rewrite and final edit, you may concentrate on specific problems. That is, you may go into the manuscript with a defined and limited goal.
This might be something your beta readers brought to your attention. Might be something your editor wants worked on.
You want to "expand the protagonist's internals," or "add more description," or "clarify how the suspense plot works."
In 'fix-it' mode, you skip forward and back, following that one thread of the story wherever it may crop up.
This limited-goal approach is tremendously useful. You look at changes in terms of what they accomplish for the story as a whole. You can ask yourself whether an edit expands the character POV or clarifies a story point instead of a nebulous 'is this better?'.
As a purely housekeeping note,
it's best to keep both old and new version. Come back in a day or two and compare them.
You can keep the old version in another document, or you can keep it in the major working document by putting it in brackets or a different font or color.