Every author has a different approach to writing. I know this because I read Rebecca Bradley’s wonderful series on how writers do their thing. Each author she spotlights adds a personal twist that intrigues me.
Not so surprisingly, no one’s approach is like mine. Here’s how I write a novel:
- Draft out events for the novel in a spreadsheet program like Excel. This gives me room to add columns and rows with new information, new ideas, notes to track an event through the story. Here’s what my spreadsheet for my latest WIP looks like:
- JK Rowling’s is low-tech, but still an obvious spreadsheet:
- Convert the draft to a word processing program like MS Word. Mine is usually 70+ pages.
- Add details about timing, setting, characters, clothing, transitions, chapter breaks.
- Start at the beginning and read for flow, timing, pacing. Edit diligently. I do this a day at a time. I finish a day’s worth of editing and start over the next day, repeating the process. Eventually, when I read to edit, it sounds fine (kind of) so I move on to the next part. I like this because I get some sense of continuity for the story. Otherwise, I forget what happened when. It sometimes takes until the third or fourth day of editing the same section to realize the character’s voice changed or s/he wouldn’t have said whatever I have coming out of his/her mouth.
- Continue until I finish the entire manuscript
- Search for obnoxious words like is, was, that, there, thing and change them. I’m identifying words that make the story passive, difficult to understand, and/or boring. I actually have a long list of them so it takes me a full twelve-hour day
- Repeat the edit process(often, three-six full read-throughs) until the flow, pacing, and timing are fine and I feel it’s ready to submit.
99.9% of you are saying, Gee. That’s not how I do it. And that’s OK. There are rarely two writers who follow the same method and lots are successful. Find an approach that works for you and use it until it doesn’t. But, there are eight editing tricks we all use in some form. See if you agree:
- Ignore the fat lady if she starts warming up. Keep writing. You know what you’re doing and you’re going to do it well.
- Keep your pet snake around to greet detractors. Or tarantula, or scorpion. Whatever you have that will keep naysayers outside your orbit.
- Expect other people to get out of your way, do your chores, bring you coffee to keep you going as you prepare your Baby. Whatever they’re doing couldn’t be as important as writing a d*** novel.
- Repeat this mantra–Editing problems are only opportunities with thorns.
- When you scream at your mate (when s/he interferes with your writing) and s/he accuses you of needing anger management, remind her/him that the only help you need is for them to shut the F*** up
- Offer a crazed smile when people interrupt. That’ll back them off.
- When distractions call, let them go to voice mail.
- If you get unwanted visitors, quote Oscar Wilde–“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.
More about editing:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.