Editing – The wake-up call

By November I’d finished my first manuscript.  I loved it.  I reveled in it.  My beauty was finally on paper!

I did not touch my manuscript for the entire month of December.  A lot of people will tell you that it’s a great idea to take break after the first draft before you jump into the heavy edits.  And it is!  I wish I could say I was following that advice, but ironically I wasn’t.  December was just way too busy for me between work, holidays, travel, and my minor addiction to Star Wars Battlefront II…  Ok, maybe not so minor.

Anyhow, it was January before I picked my manuscript back up again.  I read through it in its entirety a few times looking for consistency, plot holes, sentences that just didn’t make any sense.  All the big stuff.  I made several corrections, including the deletion of one chapter that was mostly unnecessary.  I’d also received and incorporated some feedback from others on the first draft.   So, that was it, I was READY to query!

Or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought I was ready then, but this naïve newbie author still had a lot to learn.

Thankfully before I jumped into querying I started following agents, editors and other authors on twitter.  Ironically this was another thing I never planned, but somehow stumbled into thanks to my Star Wars addiction.  If we’re being entirely honest, I created my twitter account in early December 2017 to stalk the creative team involved in Star Wars The Last Jedi, hoping to glean some hints or spoilers about the then upcoming movie.  During the setup process, Twitter asked about some of my interests, so of course I selected books and novels, and it recommended some people to follow.  I clicked on a few of those and then moved on.  Who knew it would have such an effect on my writing process just a few months down the road?

In February I started really paying attention to all of those writing and querying articles that people were posting on Twitter.  If you’ve read my other posts you’ll know that grammar has never been my strong suit, and honestly, it still isn’t.  However, I’m an avid learner, and when I set my mind to something, I figure it out – fast!   Through various articles I learned about key problems that weaken writing:  filter words, passive voice, over-used unnecessary words, etc.    One by one I started searching my manuscript for these issues…  it was a major wake up call.   Filter words were everywhere, I had unnecessary crutch words all of the place, too much passive voice.  You name it, I needed to fix it!

Another problem I discovered during February was my starting point.  I’d started too early, but I hadn’t known that until then.  Before I finished my manuscript I had read zero advice on publishing or how to get an agent.  Yep, zero.  After researching that in detail, I learned that most agents only read the first 5 pages.  Yikes yall, my first 5 pages were probably my weakest!  Info dumps galore, little action, unnecessary activity.  Basically, everything that I could do wrong I did.

So, I rewrote the first chapter of my novel.  The second version was better, much better, but it still didn’t get to the inciting incident in the first 5 pages.   I rewrote it again, and version was better still!  It focused more on my MC’s needs/problems and set the tone well, but still the inciting incents was too far off.   I loved this version, and it took me a while to give it up.  A month to be exact.  But in late March I finally found the magical version number 4 which did everything I wanted it to!  It introduced key characters and my MC’s wants/needs, established setting, set the tone, and contained the inciting incident within the first 5 pages!    This version did require me to modify the first few chapters (mostly to weave in details and backstory I’d cut from the opening), but I’d finally found the right starting point.

In my next post we’ll talk about my original ending (which should never have existed) and how I found the magical version number 4 of my ending as well.