I'm in the middle of editing my next novel (which will likely end up being a long novella - about 50,000 words), so I thought I would share my editing process. I've already shared how I edit my short stories, and while a lot is similar, my novel (and novella) editing process is a bit more involved. I have 9 stages of revision for my longer pieces. As I've said on all my posts about how I write, I'm mostly sharing this in case you're looking for a few hints to liven up your own routine, though I'm just as happy if you read it out of curiosity and continue doing what you do!
Before I start editing at all, I feel it's important to give the 1st draft some time to cool off. With longer works, the more distance you put between the draft and the editing process, the better. I like to give it at least two weeks, and a month is even better. While you wait, you might start plotting your next book, get a short story written that you've been dying to tell, or simply take a couple of weeks and read, catch up on TV and some movies (or family time if that's your bag), or otherwise decompress if it was a rough draft to write. Everyone is different, and what you need to do to get your sanity back is perfectly fine! Personally, I usually work on a short story while my novel sits and waits for editing.
When it's time to begin, I have 9 steps ahead of me. I currently use my laptop and my iPad in my editing process, and I'll explain how in each step. If you only use one gadget, that's no problem, as you'll see. You could even print out your manuscript and use a trusty red pen for most of the steps. I used to do that years ago, but with printer ink being more valuable than gold, I've since kept it all electronic. So, anyway, here are my 9 steps of revision.
1st Step: This is a quick read-through. I simply want to read through the draft to remind myself of everything and catch mistakes that I can later fix. While I'm writing, I'll often find inconsistencies or things I'd simply like to change, but it would kill all forward momentum I've built up. I have a file labeled "Revision" that I put these notes in, and I keep writing as if I've already fixed the problem. So in this read-through, I'll add on to this file if I find anything inconsistent, or if I have a new idea for a scene, character, setting, or whatever. It's not the time to fix it yet but simply label it. In this 1st step, I rarely even fix grammar mistakes. I complete this step on my laptop because I find it easier to add to my revision list.
2nd Step: This is where I dig into that revision file. While the 8 other steps are a front-to-back read and revise, this step often calls for me to jump around the manuscript. I create a second file, naming it something along the lines of "Revisions This Time" or something similar, and begin copying and pasting revision notes from the first file into this one. I use the word processing program Scrivener, so it's easy to have two files up on my screen at the same time. Of course, you can figure out how to do this with most or all word processing programs. Many of my notes are about a certain chapter, and I will put those into the new file first. For example, in my current work, Metalcore Minx, one of my notes said: "Ch.13, when the young couple asks for autographs, make sure it’s a better metal conversation—meaning they need to call her Mistress of Death at least once, say it’s strange to see her out of her makeup and costume or something." After getting the chapter notes done, I use the more general notes to fix the story. Sometimes this 2nd step could be four or five or more runs through the story until I'm happy that my revision notes have been implemented or otherwise found to not be necessary. I use my laptop on this entire step.
3rd Step: This is another quick run-through from front-to-back to make sure me implementing my revision notes didn't "break" any part of the story. Basically, I make sure the narrative flows once all the heavy-lifting has been done. I use my laptop for this step, mostly because it will begin to alternate starting with the next step.
4th Step: This is where my polishing of grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and other such things begins. I have the story in the linear order I want, so now I want to make it sound good. Unlike steps 1 and 3, I run through this step slowly so as to catch mistakes. I do this step on Scrivener on my iPad, mostly to get a physically different view of it.
5th Step: This is the same as the 4th step, but I'm back on my laptop. Again, this simply gives the eye a different superficial look at the same words. I don't know if it truly helps or not, but it feels like it to me, so I continue doing this.
6th Step: This is the same as step 4. By the time I'm done with this run-though, I'm ready to move on.
7th Step: This is where I use the editing program SmartEdit. I use it the same way I do when I edit my short stories. Feel free to click on the link in the 1st paragraph to read that post. The only difference between using SmartEdit with short stories and novels is time. Obviously, it takes much more of it in longer works. This program is on my laptop, so that's what I use.
8th Step: This is one final polish where I pay close attention to grammar, word choice, and other such fun stuff. I also make sure the story still flows after running it through SmartEdit. I can use either my laptop or iPad for this step, whichever is more convenient at the time.
9th Step: This is the final editing step. I use a text-to-speech program to listen for typos and other mistakes which are often hard to catch when reading to yourself. I also find it helps me discover how the story flows. Personally, I use the program called NaturalReader, and like with SmartEdit, I talked about it in my short story editing post, so feel free to check it out there. Also, like with SmartEdit, the only difference between short stories and novels using NaturalReader (or any other text-to-speech program) is the time it takes. I use my laptop for this step since that's where NaturalReader is. I couldn't find anything I liked as well on my iPad.
Those are my 9 steps to revision. It takes quite a bit of time, especially the steps where I like to go through slowly to best catch mistakes or find better ways to say things, but it's worth it in the end. The finished product looks (and reads!) so much better. The book still needs to formatted for publishing, but that's a topic for another time!
What do you think? Does this look anything like how you do it? Does anything look like something you'd like to try? Or was it just nice to see how another writer works? I'd love to hear any comments! Thank you for reading!