I have a confession to make. First drafts send me into a cold sweat, but edits? I love ‘em! It’s so satisfying taking a crappy, not-all there first draft and starting to turn it into something that actually works. For me, this is where the story and my characters really come alive. But that’s not to say that, faced with my edit notes, I don’t struggle to know where to start. Or get a sudden urge to eat copious amounts of chocolate. However, over the years, I’ve figured out a process that works for me (most of the time), so I thought I’d share it with you…
1 – Don’t Panic!
No, really, don’t. The first time I got the MS of my debut novel, ACID, back from my editor, it came with several pages of notes and 500 (!) comments on the MS itself. I was horrified. Why had my publisher bought this book when it was clearly TERRIBLE, and needed so much work? But, after talking to some writer friends, I realised that my editor had asked me to do this work on it because she and her team loved the book, and knew that with their guidance, I could make it shine. (I did have to ask my friends to repeat that back to me a few times, though…)
2 – Get Organised
Do you need an excuse to buy stationery? I thought not. This is my edits shopping list:
- Lever arch file (for editor’s notes and manuscript)
- Pens (for notemaking – the more colours, the better)
- Post-It notes (again, multicoloured)
- Notebook(s) (for those moments of inspiration)
- Healthy snacks (never edit on an empty stomach, and step AWAY from the chocolate)
- Wine (just because)
3 – Get Started
Sometimes, faced with a mass of notes and comments on your work, it can feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions at once. Should you fix plot arc A first, or start by addressing underdeveloped character B? Should you work on your worldbuilding, or sort out that muddled beginning? I found the best way to approach this was dive in and work on the bits I knew I could sort out first. The biggest jobs I had to do on ACID were rewriting the middle and the ending, so I got everything else out of the way first, and was able to approach these two tasks with a clear mind.
4 – Talk to Your Editor
If there’s anything you’re not sure about – or don’t agree with – talk to your editor! Remember, it’s your book, and your editor’s notes are only suggestions. They won’t hate you if you think there’s a different way to do something, or if you think something should be left as it is. Also let them if you don’t think you’re going to meet your deadline, and need an extension. They really appreciate it!
5 – Take Time Out
Things can get pretty intense when you’re working on edits – especially if you’re close to your deadline – but don’t burn out. I speak from experience here. At least once during the course of each book, I get a crazed look in my eye, start muttering to myself, and my husband has to remind me that there is a world beyond my laptop and that I really should get out in it. So now and then, allow yourself to take a day off and walk the dog, go to the cinema, indulge in a good book… something, anything other than write. It helps you come back to your work with fresh eyes.
How about you? What’s your tried and tested method for tackling edits?
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, will be published on 25th April 2013, followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults, THE FEARLESS, in 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband in the North East Midlands, UK. You can find her at her website, on twitter or at her Facebook author page or her blog. She’s also a contributor to The Lucky 13s and Author Allsorts.