- Planning - building an idea of characters and settings and plot without the nitty-gritty of details
- First draft - a few months of perspiration and terrible writing
- First break - a month or so away from the manuscript to clear my head
- Read-through - spotting major plot holes, scenes that need removing, adding or expanding...
- Second draft - usually takes about the same amount of time as the first draft, completely ripping apart the structure of the novel and making the big changes that are needed. Weeping over the scenes I love but don't work and have to go. Working at the "chapter level".
- Second break - a couple of months (possibly) of writing other things and trying to forget I ever wrote a novel
- Read-through - spotting any inconsistencies and smaller structural changes needed, thinking about language and style
- Third draft - hopefully only taking about half the time as the previous drafts, getting the final structure rooted and working on the story at the "paragraph level" - attempting good writing rather than just adequate plotting
- Feedback - getting a few trusted people to read the manuscript and tell me what they think (and reading it again myself)*
- Fourth draft - working at the "sentence level": picking better metaphors, removing cliches, cutting awkward phrases etc. This can be a big job, or not much more than a short edit.
- Read-through and edit - continuity-checking facts (weather, dates, ages of characters etc.) and trying to eliminate stylistic tics (over-used phrases and adverbs etc.) Working at the level of the word.
I'm sure with each novel this process will change a little for me, and for other authors it might be different completely. Although this is my ideal, in reality I've written at least seven versions of my novel, The Art of Letting Go - with each version varying from the previous one by a different amount, whether it's massive plot changes, basic edits or the completely re-writing of one particular character.
being published soon, I've been working on the "word level". Without the benefit of a professional editor, I was wondering whether there was any software that could analyse my writing for me at this stage. There are a few things out there, but none that did exactly what I wanted and so my husband - a software developer - stepped in. He wrote a basic program that could tell me the things I was interested in knowing about my novel. This included:
- a list of all the adverbs and their frequency
- a list of all words and their frequency
- percentage of the novel that is dialogue
- frequency of short phrases (to check I haven't over-used them)
I'm not going to give you a detailed analysis of everything I discovered about my writing, you'll be pleased to know, (though it may creep into later posts!) but it was an interesting exercise and one that has made my writing tighter in only a couple of hours. I feel much happier about the overall quality of the work, knowing that I've paid attention to details down to this level. How do you edit your own work in detail?
If I was to offer one specific tip for a writer analysing their work in detail today, it would be this: Find every place you've used the word 'really' and see whether you can eliminate it! Happy hunting...