Editing a novel can easily become overwhelming. In my monthly flash fiction stories I would spend a few days writing, then a few days editing. No big deal. With a story only a couple thousand words long, you can edit from the top down rather quickly. It is much easier to manage. But, a novel? This will take months instead of days. It’s going to take a bit of strategy on my part.
My target length for this manuscript is around 100,000 words, or 400 pages. During my writing of the rough draft, I skipped a few scenes by simply writing [insert scene where A, B, and C happen]. I didn’t want to slow down my forward progress, so I marked those spots that needed additional work. Other scenes and chapters are so thin on description and dialogue, that it is basically a skeleton. This resulted in a shallow word count for my draft at 58,000 words, or 232 pages.
Where does that leave me? First things first. I have a lot of scenes that need to be filled in. So not only will I need to write whole chapters, but I’ll need to beef up a good portion of others.
My battle plan, therefore, should be to fill in those gaps and flesh out the entire story. I want a new draft that will read straight through from beginning to end. One that does not have missing chunks of the story.
There are multiple ways to do this, of course. One thing I’ve come to realize is that no two writers follow the exact same process. It’s as unique to us as our narrative voice. The best advice I have here is to do what makes you comfortable.
I think I’ll start from the beginning and work my way through to the end. A great thing about having a rough draft is that I know where my story is going. I know where my characters end up. This gives me knowledge I didn’t have when I first started to figure this story out. My characters have grown over the course of the book, which means their voices are more distinct. I need to ensure that I am capturing that in this edit early on.
Additionally, as I’ve thought about this story for the last few months, I have scenes that I want changed or removed. My magic system is going to look completely different which will fundamentally impact the story. I’m adding a new POV that wasn’t in the rough draft.
Instead of filling in gaps in a story that has drastic changes on the horizon, I think the best option is to start from the beginning.
With that in mind, it is time to gather the forces for chapter one.
I collected those scenes that still need to be written and threw them in to my lineup of chapters. Essentially, I’ve written out the chapter number, followed by a few sentences that summarize the content.
Chapter 1 – Character X introduction. X is hiding from two assassins in a forest. After surprising them, he gets a surprise of his own when he learns they were sent to kill him by a friend.
Chapter 2 –
Chapter 3 –
I’ve written this out for all 28 of my current chapters. Simple stuff. Then I went back to this list and added in chapters that will fit between what I currently have. I’ll add chapters 1.5, 5.5, 12.5 and so on. This gives me a full chronological list and I can now go back to writing and editing in order. This is also much easier to handle because I’ve identified those chapters and scenes that need to be added and won’t have to worry about forgetting to include something as I move along.
More fun? I’ve realized that I’ve started my story in the wrong place, with the wrong character. In fact, I need to back the story up in time so that we can get a better introduction to my main cast of characters.
My new chapter one will be brand new. In fact, so will chapter two. My old chapter one is now trashed entirely. It won’t even make the next draft. That character will not appear until chapter three as things stand at the moment.
This makes for a lot of movement, but I feel much better about this editing process now that I have my battle plans. I know what I am missing and I know where they go in the story, and when I will need to write them out. It’s almost time to dive into this story and I cannot wait mold it into what I see in my head.