I’ve only published short stories; editing them was something of an easy task. Because they are short, everything from proofreading to substantive editing can be done with each pass. After all, I was only dealing with 8-20 page stories.
A common rule of thumb I’ve read says to wait at least two months before picking up your manuscript to start editing. Well…NaNoWriMo ended two months ago, so the time has come for the grueling process to begin.
The first two editing passes will be a Substantive Edit. “The Queen” (editor, wife, p.i.t.a.) has never read the manuscript, and she wants to do a complete reading with her notes to me. Those tiny plot holes, character motivations, vagueness, passages that slow down too much, or dialog that doesn’t fit a character need to be addressed first. Essentially it’s a “big picture” edit.
It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but after looking over The Queen’s notes for the first eight chapters, the proverbial light bulb is on. I understand the issues being addressed and it didn’t take much “mental juice” to develop a solution for all of the little problems. Of course what helps me out the most is her ability to write specific notes.
Instead of something like “This is vague,” she’ll write “Seems like he (my MC) gave in too quickly here. Consider more of a discussion or explanation that…” The Queen’s detailed notes readily facilitate a solution. Also, numbering her notes helps. Her first note in chapter 2 will be called (2.1) and so forth.
Communication is the key when performing a substantive editing pass of an entire manuscript, and it’s a two-way street.
Of course, any changes that I make to the manuscript will be typed in green. When I pass the MS back to her, she will see how I addressed each suggestion. For the sake of clarification, I always include the number of her note to my correction. This system is very advantageous when a note calls for something in one chapter to be moved into another chapter.
What’s the first thing you do in order to edit a manuscript? Got a special system?
Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of…