Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Obnoxious Navy Blue Folder

As of late, I've taken on the project of editing my book. This is something I have worked on sporadically for the past year, making changes as I thought of them or as they were suggested. After reading Thanks, But This Isn't For Us I gained a better understanding of just how much work my book needed, and so I decided to go back to the beginning and edit the whole thing from start to finish. I even started a new document labelled "Second Draft" on my computer.

I have never had the highest opinion of editing. When I was in journalism it usually meant losing all my favourite quotes and sentences so my story would fit in the space provided for it. Usually I find it an emotional experience where I don't want to cut anything, so while I saw it as a necessary evil, I was not, in any way, looking forward to editing.

To make it fun (and again at the suggestion of Jessica Page Morrell), I printed out my entire novel and went at it with red ink. Apparently this is a good idea because you will look at things differently when it's on a page, as opposed to a computer screen where you usually see it. I agreed to do it because crossing things out is so much more fun than delete.

For the past month, most places I've gone I've carried a navy blue folder with a few pages of my book in it, along with a red pen to pull out and edit when I have some down time. I set a goal to average ten pages a day. Amazingly, I discovered I loved editing! Unlike previous editing experiences, I was doing it for myself, and I could see my story becoming better as I worked. It got to the point where it was what I wanted to do for fun. Some of pages were covered in cross outs, side notes and corrections, others had only a few commas moved around, one or two were crossed out completely with new text scribbled on the back. I began doing more than ten pages a day! I was going to have no trouble meeting the deadline I set for myself . . .

A word to the wise, when you are on a writing kick and want to keep going non-stop past your quota, stop. I already knew that but sometimes I still forget. I got to the trickier parts of my book, the ones where I just don't see a solution to make them better, and suddenly all the wind was knocked out of my sails. I didn't know what to do with one scene. I knew it needed the axe, but I had no idea what to replace it with (still don't). I couldn't bear to look at that obnoxious blue folder still sitting in my bag.

I looked back at the edits I'd made, and came up with another idea. I would go back, add the changes into the manuscript before I forgot what I wanted, and once I caught up, I would follow a new system; edit a chapter with red pen, then add it into the new document while it was still fresh in my mind. I think this is the best idea I've had thus far, and I am enjoying editing again. That navy blue folder no longer makes me cringe when I see it; it's filled with pages to be added into my computer, and if if you hear of me wanting to gorge myself on making edits, please feel free to slap my wrist.

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