Those of you who have stuck around for a really long time know that I hate editing. I always feel like I could be writing another book instead, so that's what I do. My finished first drafts sit in folders in my computer, and my to do lists always have that one thing to edit that I never check off. My past editing history can be boiled down to a month or two of heavy editing on Ten of Me and a couple rewrites of the first few books of the Ballet Blog series (if that can count for anything).
The truth is, I don't know where to start with editing at all. I look at a finished draft and I think "yeah, this could be a lot better," but I don't have any tangible things I want to change and the whole thing is just so large and intimidating that I never get around to it (see paragraph one). So I just go through and make my sentences a little prettier and maybe spiffy up some plot holes and call it a day.
Friends, this is not editing. And I have known that for a very long time. I just choose to ignore it. But not anymore.
Today, December 18, 2017, begins my editing journey for Unveil. I've been dreaming of seriously querying a book for a long time, which I can't do without editing, and so I'm starting today. No more excuses. By the end of the holiday season, I want a perfectly polished draft with a perfectly polished query, ready to send out (but likely not until February because agents are swamped in January.
I officially have nothing to lose. So here goes nothing.
(Oh, and I'm breaking down my editing into steps just in case you want to follow my unorganized mess of an editing process.)
Step 1: figuring out what to change
I kind of cheated and did this step before December 18, but I'm including it because it is crucial.
Throwback to August 2017. I signed up for a writing critique group because a). it gave me credit towards a Creative Writing minor and b). I needed an excuse to keep writing with my busy college schedule. And when it came time to submit a writing sample, I submitted the first two chapters of Unveil because a). I needed motivation to keep writing it and b). it seemed like my least cliché teen romance novel.
I almost quit the critique group after the first week because I had a paralyzing fear of sharing my work. That's probably strange to you because I upload literally all of my writing online, but something about associating my words with my face felt like a whole new milestone that I didn't think I was ready for.
The professor convinced me to stay. Despite some rough weeks, I got some really solid critique on my first draft.
Here's the thing: these people flat-out mutilated my first eight chapters.
And it was incredible.
I'm not going to lie and say I loved every moment of it. There were days when I went back to my dorm room and vented to my friends about how everything I wrote was wrong, and nothing was good enough for these people, etc. etc. etc. Cue self-pitying lamenting. But it was my most invaluable writing experience to date.
Guys, having other eyes on your work is essential to making it the best it can be. And I don't just mean readers' eyes. Yes, I LOVE the encouragement I receive when I share my drafts online, but having these sometimes-scathing critiques were so important. Yes, it bristled my pride a little when people told me a scene was sappy, or Gabi rang somewhat like Bella from Twilight (major cringe). But it was worth it because I'd rather hear it from these people than an agent or an editor.
Here's some major things my critique group urged me to change: Gabi's personality (she needed a more well-rounded character and more emotional connection), my sense of setting (I had to flesh out New York City, big-time), Gabi's relationship with Asher (Gabi seemed totally boy-crazy and obsessed with this guy), my transitions between dreams and reality, and my whole concept with watches and colors. Not only did they tell me these things, but they showed me specific places I could change my writing. And my professor, who lived in New York City for a good portion of her life, was integral in helping me make Gabi sound just like a true New Yorker.
After the critique group ended, I read through the draft and added my own things I wanted to fix: Gabi's relationship with Emery (way too much, way too fast), character inconsistencies in Adrienne, Carolina, and Marisa, Asher and Emery's personalities (they both seemed kind of flat), and fixing some weird thing I'd tried to do with eye color but ended up scrapping mid-draft.
This was a LONG list. But now I at least had a game plan.
Step 2: the rewrite
Since I had so much to change, instead of going straight into the draft I started a brand new document and decided to go for a rewrite. Little by little, I copied paragraph by paragraph into the new document and either edited those paragraphs or rewrote them altogether. It was painstaking, but I was able to change all of the things I listed above at once, while making sure I didn't create new inconsistencies or miss out on anything.
(Oh, and during this process I also renamed Unveil, which is now Ellucid. Someone in my critique group suggested it (a mashup of elusive and lucid, as in lucid dreaming), and I fell in love.)
Here's a day-by-day breakdown of my rewrite journey.
My newest conquest began with the copy-and-paste of the first chapter's heading and quote. I rewrote chapters 1 and 2, then called it a day because it was 1 AM and I was exhausted.
2 / 29 (6.89%)
Here's some before-and-after pics from the first day. I completely rewrote the first scene (which is now the book's opening), but the second before-and-after shows some more moderate edits.
As you can see, for the second scene I focused on fleshing out Gabi—plus, I added a subplot about her father, which is going to become significant in books 2 & 3.
Also, because I'm way more excited about this than I should be, I started drafting a query letter:
Okay, so obviously it still needs some help. But this is a draft, and I'm planning on sitting down and really focusing on it after I finish editing.
Today I edited chapters 3-5, which I think is making great progress.
5 / 29 (17.24%)
I still kind of hate chapter 5, but I'm letting it be for now and I may go back and do some more major changes during Round 2. I also added a whole breakfast scene at the beginning of the chapter with Nathan's mom which I actually like.
In other news, I made a list of everything I need to fix, as well as words I feel like I'm repeating WAY too much that I want to delete after the rewrite. As a writer, it's super important for me to identify words I tend to overuse so I can keep an eye out for them as I edit.
As you can probably see, I haven't made much progress with either checklist yet. But that's okay, because chapters 1-5 are my least favorite chapters in the whole book and round 1 of edits is done with them, and chapters 6-11 are my second least favorite chapters and those are next. After that, I think I'll feel a lot better.
On to day 3!
I had important non-writerly plans all day yesterday and couldn't edit—not ideal, but it's bound to happen. So today, I buckled down and got some serious work in.
8 / 29 (27.59%)
Chapter 6 has been easily the most difficult chapter for me to rewrite so far, and I have no idea why. There was a lot of setting description in that chapter, so that may be why—I spent literal hours researching New York City, because while I kind of made stuff up on the spot for my rough draft, I had to actually fact-check things this time and get my subway routes/street addresses/important landmarks straight. I completely rewrote the chapter (and most of chapter 7)—I saved maybe two or three sentences—and still don't know how I feel about it.
Here's a snippet from my newly created chapter 6:
The writer life is hard, y'all. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
In other news, I made an inspirational trip to the bookstore today and treated myself with some new reads and now I am newly revived and more excited than ever to get this draft polished and ready to go.
And another update—my editing checklists that I mentioned yesterday are growing ever-longer. So. Many. Repeated. Words.
Temporary pause on editing Ellucid so I can spiffy up Paper Flowers for submission to Swoon Reads—I'd been working on it gradually but the deadline crept up on me quicker than I'd thought! I'm resuming edits on this shortly.
Now that Pretty Plastic People is submitted on Swoon Reads I'm back in the game and ready to finish up Ellucid. I started slow today, working on ch. 9. Most of the day was spent making Emery and Gabi's relationship less sudden and less creepy. All good things, right?
9 / 29 (31.03%)
Also, after editing Pretty Plastic People with a fine-tooth comb, I realize just how much I repeat stuff about eyes and eyes flickering and people biting lips and wow it's a real problem. So that's going on—guess what?—my ever-growing editing checklist!
BEFORE: (I'm just trying not to roll my eyes at this)
Oh no! Gabi feels weak! Emery must catch her and pull her close! She just "wants to be held right now" because she's so, so confused. Poor thing. Literally hate this part so much.
AFTER: (I still want to go back and tweak this some more, but I've leaving it alone for now.)
I also made a handy schedule which, while balancing Pretty Plastic People, edits on Ellucid, and drafting The Back of Wednesday, should put me ready to query by the end of January.
Today wasn't a huge editing day, but I'm working on some other projects—finishing up Infiltration and outlining The Back of Wednesday—so it's all I had time for.
10 / 29 (34.48%)
Over one third finished with this part of editing!
Chapter 10 wasn't that difficult to edit—I liked most of it as it was, so it was mainly just adding detail and tweaking phrasing. Nothing too important. By the end of the week I want to have editing through chapter 15 done, which seems like a super manageable goal. Editing will also get quicker as I go along, because as I wrote the first draft I grew more confident in characterization/where I was heading with plot intricacies. Once I get to chapter 13 or so I'm expecting this to move along pretty swiftly.
Here's progress on my editing checklist!
It's been a little while! I've been slowly (very slowly) editing Ellucid but have only just now gotten back around to updating you on here. I was through chapter 13 before I started editing today, and I made some awesome progress getting through chapters 14-.
10 / 29 (34.48%)
Aside from working on changing big plot things, I can't help but stop and polish up some sentences even though that's supposed to be saved for the next round of editing. For example, check out this rambling wreck in chapter 14:
But he doesn't’ glance my way, and I realize that if he had he probably would have killed me, too.
This sentence is a nightmare complete with like 3 tense switches, some unnecessary words, and even a typo. So obviously I dealt with it right away:
But he doesn't glance my way, and I realize if he did he’d probably kill me, too.
I can now rest easy knowing this one sentence isn't so monstrous anymore. Now for the other two hundred something pages!
Stay tuned as I continue to edit Unveil in the next month!