Friday, 22 June 2012

Choppity Chop - Redrafting & Editing

Look, no hands! Or rather, look 2 posts in just a few days.  Am quite impressed with myself this week, as have kind of achieved what I set out to do (albeit have barely slept as a result!) AND I have spent a little less time on Twitter (not difficult when it was previously every waking hour...)

So, I hear you ask, what have you been doing this week, Sooz?

Redrafting, Editing and Redrafting some more..

I am 18 chapters into my 43 chapter second novel The Dating Game. I nearly lost 16 chapters the other day, as my file corrupted, but I was lucky as I had emailed myself at 1am on Sat morning with all the changes I had made.  Plus I had printed off all the chapters to date, so I could edit them all.  It was lovely & satisfying to have a sheaf of over 120 pages of A4 and realise novel number two really is taking shape.  Phew! It was a close call though, so remember to back up your work!!

So, how do I redraft and what do I look for?
Well, last time I did a lot of redrafts (for Sign of the Times) and many of those were for word count.  This is not a comprehensive list and there will be many things that I do that other authors won't, but here's the wee list of things I made for myself to check for, in no particular order.
1) Show not tell -   several author friends have reiterated this on their blogs in recent weeks and I agree that to a certain extent, but not exclusively, one should try to show, rather than just describe.
2) consistency of tenses - pluperfect v simple past or imperfect. When is it ok to switch from one to the other? (grammar & other exciting rules). In many cases this is just personal taste,as my editor, Drill Sergeant Fi Broon and I had slightly different takes on this. I checked it out and well, what can I say..I was right!!
3) Repetition - as the writer, you don't realise how many times you repeat the same phrases, or how often you use similar words, eg love/lover/loved/loving in the space of a couple of sentences.
4) Cliches - apparently there is software for checking for cliches. I checked Sign of the Times  manually in about draft eight, as I had just read a How to Publish Your Novel book and it had advised not to use cliches.  Now, I write and just go with the flow, and I minimise cliches in the redraft. What I love is when you discover you've used a couple of cliches in the same paragraph.  Don't let your work be cliche heavy.  Sometimes cliches are still the best thing to use, for the context, but I reckon in about 90% of cases, it can be changed to a better phrase.
5) sentences/phrases I'm not 100% happy with.  Occasionally I know what I want to say, but it doesn't come out right. So, in writing, rather than stop my train of thought, I get the gist down in the first draft, mark it in red and move on. A few weeks or even months later, when I go to do the redraft, I generally have a Eureka moment and find the right phrase. If not, I change the surrounding phrases.
6)Pacing - I did an earlier post wholly on Pacing - is there enough action and/or momentum?  Is your novel whizzing along or is it being dragged along against its will?
7) Dialogue - I speak the dialogue aloud.  I am from Glasgow and we do tend to speak quite slang up here, so I have to ensure it's realistic.  Also, and something I read  in another author's blog recently - don't just have screeds of dialogue, with nothing else happening. It can be boring.  Ensure there is some small activity going on, whether the person is brushing their hair, fishing in their pocket, or the person they are speaking to is doing something.
8) Adverbs - are there too many?  Check if each adverb needs to be there. Is it adding anything?  If not, lose it.
9) Shorter sentences. I am notorious for writing long sentences and personally I find nothing wrong with longer sentences, as long as they are well written and well punctuated.  However, I agree that sometimes shorter, snappier sentences is the way to go, so now I check them.
10) Continuity errors - reading back through my MS, I might realise, drat (as I have done), I've called a major and very minor character the same name.... or I said they lived in the west end, but now they live in the south side, or their best friend's son, became their best friend's daughter.
11) Waffle - The Drill Sergeant will say 'Sooz, indulgent waffle...'.  Then she will berate me for all the instances where I am passing off my personal opinions as those of my characters and because she knows me well, she knows my opinions on many things (it's bloomin' annoying!!)

I have read many times that you should lose a third of your MS in the edit. I don't agree that this is strictly true, however, I do think the redraft is a good opportunity to sharpen your scythe and give the Grim Reaper-like cry of Choppity Chop!

The above is not an exhaustive list, just some random things I check for. I hear other authors say, do you edit for plot or character first. I don't edit for either of those things per se, maybe subconsciously,apart from in the ways described above. Any edits to characters/plot happen in my head, as I go along. I don't wait for the redraft to make those changes & if I have to go back and change earlier chapters at that point, to avoid continuity errors, I do.

Lastly typos. Obviously I check these as I go along. I don't notice them and go 'Yeah, I'll fix that later', but after 10 drafts of Sign of the Times, I worked out there are so many changes that can occur in the earlier redrafts, it makes no sense to kill yourself to spot every misplaced comma, until you are right at the final proofreading stage. 

Right chaps, hope that was some use to you and if you are in the editing stage, let's hope not all of it was a surprise to you!!

On that note, it's back to the chopping board for me. Have a great weekend, Sooz x


  1. Excellent list of things to look for. I have a problem with the repetition of my favor words/phrases. I also do one pass just to get rid of as many of the occurrences of was, had, were, that as I can.

    Kim Bussey

  2. hi Leslie Kim, thanks for your comment. Actually I was going to add that too, as I have been vetting those, particularly after another author's post pointed it out and it comes back to making action more immediate. I think that author said one should have only 3 per page if possible. Personally I think that's a little drastic, however, it is true that you can modify many sentences which actually become stronger. The reason I think that it's a little over-egged, is because authors I have read for years have many was/were in their books, and although it helps to remove some instances of it, to delete lots and lots of instances, can in itself become stilted. Glad to see I am not the only one who has to edit for their favourite word/phrase!

  3. Just want to say thanks for putting this together. As a new writer I've heard people say you have to do many edits before a book is ready but saying that, apart from typos and commas I've been confused as to some of things things I should be doing. This has given me a great place to start.

    Laura :)

  4. hi Laura, you're very welcome and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. The post will also help me I am sure, as I can refer back to it! But yes, there is a lot more to it than typos and commas. As far as ! am concerned that's for the final proofread! Wishing you every success, Sooz