Saturday, September 25, 2010

Revisionist History

Ah! Didn't miss a day yet! Tempted though I may be.

I'm in the middle of editing my current book, which got me thinking about editing in general and how different it is for everyone. On twitter, I asked if anyone else did an outline after they finished the story like I did. Didn't get many answers, but one said he did a detailed one for his first book, so-so for his second and for his third, hasn't thought of it yet but maybe. Another asked what this strange "outline" was.

It's one of those things that everyone has to do differently, not unlike writing itself. Hell, I usually do it different for every book. My first (may it never see the light of day) I would write and then go over what I wrote. When I finished, I did quite a few passes. Sadly, it didn't make it any better.

For the current one, as I indicated, I made an outline of the important events for each chapter. With it all condensed on a few pages, it's easier to look at it and pick out what should go, what I want to stay but might have to go, and what isn't important to the plot, but is to the characters. I'm hoping I'll be able to cut out about ten thousand words (it runs almost 80,000), first from removals and then from going through and snipping out individual words that are causing trouble. Then I'll probably catch more when I do the read through.

But still, there is a problem: I can't catch everything. Editing out little words is one thing but I for one can't always tell when a plot line or a character is working. Sometimes I'm convinced a word or a phrase or an event is vital to the story, but you know what? It's not. That's what beta readers are for. It's true that you can be your own harshest critic, but that doesn't mean you're right.


  1. I did the same thing! The order of events 'felt' off, so when I finished the MS, I sat down and outlined it. That helped me to see how things would flow better (and it was much better after reordering). :)

  2. I tend to write my plot outline halfway through. Generally when I get stuck and need to find that direction again. It's more a timeline for the progression of the book with a short summary of each scene/event happening. I'm then able to see where I need to go next and get there.

    I even sometimes will take that summary and insert it into the comments section of the document so that when I'm reading through I can see if it will flow or if it needs to be moved/added to/deleted.

    Sometimes the plot changes, sometimes it deviates along a different path (especially when it comes to dealing with troublesome characters)but eventually I get there.

    And yes I have a beta reader, two actually, and then after they've nit-picked, I sit down and read it allowed to one of them, because that's when we both really pick up the minor grammer errors.

    Right now we are trying to deal with my serious addiction to the semi-colan :)


Please validate me.