After 4 years of editing, we have finally reached the home stretch and are preparing to publish Refractors Volume I: Evoke. This will be the first book of our five-part Young Adult Action Adventure series and will feature a narrative told from the point of view of our three protagonists Serec, Sa'Sha, and NaRyn. But why did it take so long to do these edits? How do we plan to write and edit our future manuscripts faster so we don't spend the next 20 years on 4 books (looking at you George R.R. Martin)? What have we learned that can help you avoid falling into the same trap? We'll answer all of this and more as we go through 5 Techniques to Knockout! Those Edits.
1. Have a Plan
You don't need a plan. Just write what's in your heart. SAID NO ONE EVER! Okay, so that's admittedly a bit extreme. The cool (and sometime frustrating) thing about writing is that like most creative pursuits, there isn't a single proven method that works for everyone. However, we've found planning to be helpful as we literally spent six years of our life trying to write a book with no plan whatsoever. It wasn't until we adopted the Snowflake Method, that we were able to bring everything together and finish up our initial draft. When it comes to editing, we recommend setting objectives and timelines for your edit before jumping in. Having word count target for each session can also help as it allows you to stay on track and assess you progress.
2. Consider Your Audience
Sometimes what is not said has a greater impact than what is. When it comes to writing, it is important to respect your reader's time. I know you've designed this intricate world full of exciting places and people but it is not critical to the story to explain everything in gnat's ass detail. This is especially true for more active scenes like fights or heated arguments where too much detail can slow the pace. It's not to say that you don't need detail in your scenes. You just need to determine how much information is required to move the plot forward. Too much information will either bore the audience, insult their intelligence, or both (probably both).
3. Cut! Cut! Cut!
One of the biggest issues we had early on was that our fight scenes were so long that they bored our beta readers. We described in excruciating detail every punch, dodge, and block leaving our readers uninterested in our action scenes. It was so bad at first that one of our readers admitted to skipping scenes with heavy action altogether. Editing your own work requires a certain level of detachment. You will be in love with every word on the page at first (or in some case you will hate it all). Your feelings can't get in the way of your ability to identify what is needed and what is not. How do you know what's important? In most stories, every word is responsible for one of three things: characterization, driving the plot, and world building. If it doesn't satisfy at least one of those conditions, CUT IT! Not only does it waste space in your story, but it gives the reader useless information that they assume is pertinent. Doing this too much denies them the satisfaction of seeing these elements woven into the story and at a minimum can bore them. When conducting your edits treat each word like it cost you money (which it often does) and don't be afraid to ask yourself "Do I really need this?
4. Review Your Work (and Get Help)
None of us are perfect. Even after editing your manuscript (multiple times!), you will still find mistakes. We have gone through our manuscript seven times and though it is polished to a mirrors sheen now, we found an astonishing amount of simple mistakes throughout the process. This is the part where tools help tremendously. Our workflow has been refined to a few simple steps which we will elaborate on in a later post but go something like this: word processor review (reading and spell check in our Google Drive, Grammarly review, audio review (text to speech), final word processor review. We also like to get a second set of eyes on this which is easy considering there are two of us. A lot of writers will tell you to hire a professional editor... and they're right! This can be expensive but if cost is a factor, find some fellow writers who would be willing to review your manuscript. Attention to detail is key here and regardless of which path you take, be prepared to put some time into this.
5. Stay Consistent
It's much easier to do something when it's a habit. Getting into the habit of consistently writing isn't easy, but it's pretty damn simple. Working on your manuscript daily, preferably at the same every day is the best way to remain consistent with your progress. Figure out what time of day you do your best work and what times are most conducive to working. Once you've identified your optimal time to work, set an alarm to remind yourself to get writing. That's it. Told you it was simple. After you've gotten through a good session of editing, give yourself a small reward. Over time, your brain will start to crave this reward loop and you will find yourself having done significantly more work than if you'd just written when you felt like it.
Like Cuphead, revising and editing your manuscript is difficult, frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking. But the satisfaction of successfully finishing your edits (like beating a Cuphead boss) will have you wanting to Knockout! more revisions and edits.
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