I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.
As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.
Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!
- Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
- On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
- Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
- Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
- Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).
Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?
Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!
So this weekend I did something that I never thought I would do.
I printed the entire draft of my novel.
Well, I didn’t print it. I had it printed at Fedex. I got it 3-hole-punched and then I purchased a binder for it to live in. I also double-spaced the draft so I had room for notes and line-editing.
And y’all. Y’all.
I will never not print my first draft of anything ever again.
It’s so satisfying. And not because of any sort of aesthetic, like the feel of the paper or the scratch of the pen, although those things are very nice. No, it’s because I’m not seeing it the way I see every single other part of my day: on the other side of a screen. I don’t find myself going cross-eyed at walls of text. I’m not terrified of cutting and pasting chapters because I think that at that moment my computer is going to crash or Internet demons will steal my words away into an oblivion of deletion.
If I want to move a chapter, I literally pick it up and rearrange it.
If I like a passage, I can draw a giant smiley face.
If I hate something, I can punch it without replacing my monitor.
Try it. Print out a short story or a poem or a blog post. Look at it with a pen in your hand. Really read it. Write on it. Cross shit out. Underline words. Doodle in the margins.
It’s a completely different experience.
So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.
Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.
Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.
Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.
Holy guacamole, y’all.
So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.
- Taking notes: right now, I’m just reading. Not editing, not proofing. Just reading. I’m keeping a notebook and pen and taking notes of names, things that are happening, names of places and major plot points.
- Highlight: I can tell there are some things that are not staying or working at all, or that changed drastically in the NaNo draft. They are getting highlighted. Again, I am not deleting anything. I’m just making sure I can see them when I return to this wall of text.
- No judging: this is a hard one. I am trying very, very hard not to judge myself as I work through this. I’m trying to look at this book the way I might a friend’s piece of writing or even a complete stranger’s. It’s helping me be objective, even if it is a huge hurdle.
Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”
“I don’t have time.”
Yes you do. Grab your tablet/notebook/phone/index card and a pen and go into the bathroom.
Write a blog post (I challenged myself to write this one in 5 minutes).
Write a haiku.
Write a limerick.
Write a note to someone and tell them that you love them in the most beautiful way you can.
Edit a paragraph in that thing you’ve been working on.
Post on a friend or cowriter’s blog and talk about something that has worked for you.
Take a picture and write about it – like one or two sentences.
Write down a memory and put it in a book.
Scrawl a secret and stick it in your local bookstore/library’s Postsecret section.
Tell someone you’re a writer.
Tweet to a writer you admire and tell them how awesome they are.
Fill in post-its with ideas for your next story/poem/chapter/whatever.
Pinterest a picture that makes you think of a character.
You have time.
Hoard every second of it.
Watching: Cutthroat Kitchen — Alton Brown is a household name in our home. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a game show for as long as we’ve been watching this one. If you aren’t familiar, it’s four chefs who have to make a dish with only 60 seconds to shop for their items. However, before they get started, they enter into an auction for items to sabotage their competition. Things like a dented pan or a teeny tiny skillet as their only cooking vessel. It’s diabolical and fantastic.
Loving: Halloween! — We have officially entered into the time when I can talk unabashedly about how excited I am about this holiday. I used to not be big on Halloween, but in recent years I’ve gotten much more into it. It sucks that we live on a giant house on a hill where we have gotten exactly zero trick-or-treaters in the six years we’ve been here, but whatever. More candy for me!
Reading: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris — This is a book I’m listening to again on my phone. I am trying to listen to at least one essay a day while walking around my office building. Does this make me look crazy? Maybe. Do I care? Absolutely not.
Hearing: “Rude” by Magic — I have had this song stuck in my head all day. And I haven’t listened to a whole lot of music lately, so…I’m counting it.
Doing: editing — My next big project is the 2nd edition of my novel, Cape and Dagger. I’d like to get this done for its two year anniversary, which would make it to be completed by next month. It’s not the most elegant of writing projects, but I feel like I would be much happier with it shined up and floating out there in the Internet literasphere.
It’s Monday. What are you doing?