Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's More Than One Way to Edit?

I’m finally ready to sit down and edit my finished YA Romance ‘Welcome to Coventry’.  After cleaning up the first three chapters to the best of my ability, I sent them off to my critiques group and anxiously await their reply.
In the meantime, I’m left with the perpetual question: Am I doing the right thing?

I have the dilemma of having two very different projects on my lap.  Different styles, genres, word counts and therefore, I have the growing suspicion that the editing I’ve been learning to do all along on my first project just isn’t going to cut it with my second.

 Laura Pauling had a post a while back about some of the worst advice she received about editing her manuscript and she said at the time it was ‘cut cut cut’. 

Now, my first manuscript benefited (and could probably still benefit) from this advice.  It was majorly overwritten and contained details that didn’t move the story along.

This project, however, is fairly underwritten.  It contains a lot of dialogue with some carefully chosen description and detail.  It’s also very fast paced and only 52k.  I’m really hesitant to simply ‘cut’ anything out but would rather flesh it out, reword, or rephrase. 

Justine Dell had a fabulous guest interview with Candice from Live Raw that explains how to do sentence by sentence editing and I found this to be worthwhile advice and perfect for this type of manuscript so I’m hoping to use this method.

Does anyone else have any advice for editing a shorter ms?


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35 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

No advice to offer, but I will be back to see what the pros say!


word verification: fectned. Doesn't that sound like some kind of festering sore - like a giant pimple? "I can't go out today, I've got a giant fectned on my face" hahaha

Tessa Conte said...

oh my apparently we're all editing at the moment (I just posted on that too)...

With my short story, I actually found myself adding a sentence here and there because I'd been too short at times, and on second reading things didn't entirely make sense anymore.

I find the whole editing thing a bit of a nightmare, but it's especially hard to find the right balance of stuff to put in and stuff to leave out. After all, I know all the backstory so it may make perfect sense to me and none at all to the reader.

Ah well.

In the end, I guess I'll have to rely on betas to tell me the truth...

I wish you more success with this than I generally have!

Clara said...

I think cut cut cut only works for really long manuscripts. If you have 52k you can definetly play more.

Jen said...

Those links came just at the right time. I saw the interview at Justine's blog the other day and it was perfect considering I'm around the stage.

Your first link is something I'll be looking into. My crit group told me to cut, cut, cut but they were write, I had overwritten and the story was all over the grid. So before cutting I just wrote an outline of how I wanted the story to roll and now I can gladly cut pieces that don't matter. And everyone told me writing was the hardest part, LOL

Aubrie said...

I tend to underwrite myself. I have the basic framework, but then I have to go back and fill in certain scenes.

That's okay! That's part of editing as well :)

Bridge Marie said...

Yeah, I definitely don't think cut cut cut works with a 52K piece, though it can definitely work for longer pieces. And thanks for the links to other editing suggestions!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My mss usually go on a yo-yo diet. I have to cut unnecessary stuff and flesh other parts out (the tell and description). My wip has bounced all the way up to 82,000 words, down to 74,000, and back up to 80,000. I'm glad my own weight doesn't do this. ;)

JustineDell said...

Ewh...cutting. Just the sound makes me cringe. First, I hate editing, period. Everything about it makes my gag reflex twitch.

I've never had to cut length, I've always had to add, so I don't have any hard-core advice for you. One thing you can do it take out all those nasty uneeded words. Did you know that I cut 357 words out of my MS by deleting all the "just" words? Crazy right? Now, add to that the "began to's", "started to's", "even's" and such, I lost over 1,000 words. Give that a shot. It works. And it's a start.

~JD

Renae said...

I'm a bad example because I usually don't cut down my manuscripts and they do tend to be long. I end up moving things around and getting rid of inconsequential words that don't add anything, but that's about it. By the way editing? So not my favorite part.

Like I said...I'm a bad example.

Matthew Rush said...

If the MS is only 52,000 words I don't think much cutting will be necessary.

The only advice I can give is make sure to get feedback from more than one source. With your crit group it sounds like you're already doing that.

salarsenッ said...

Very thought provoking this morning, Ms. Creepy. Huh...I think you're wise to tread lightly on simply 'cutting'. My second novel is still about 12,000 over the word count I want to be at, but that's a far cry from the 155,000 of my first word epidemic. I'm looking with a keener eye, sure it's 'be' verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Try a word search of those most infamous critters. Bet it's just a matter of tightening up those. ";-)

Jeff Hirsch said...

Like Stina, I find that I go back and forth between expanding and contracting as I edit. Hard to say without knowing the book but yeah, you may need to expand awhile and then go back and trim. Cutting can be great and all but it also can be dangerous. Sometimes if something isn't working immediately people will just say cut it when what it really needs is a deeper exploration to make it work. I know I've taken the cutting advice too seriously before and turned something into a skeleton of it's former self.

I would also agree with Matthew, getting as great a variety of opinions as possible is important.

Good luck!

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Hmm, if it's mostly dialogue and carefully chosen description, you write exactly like me! Yep! When I sit down to write the second draft, I flesh out. I add more description that portrays emotion without actually saying how they feel. Small movements, face expressions etc. Ha. Another thing we have in common ;)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Thanks for the advice everyone! Sometimes I think editing a shorter is even more complicated than a longer ms. But editing in general sucks! AA- as EJ would say 'your my sister from another mister!'lol

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for linking to my blog post! I'll be entering revisionland and have to take my own advice. I liked the other link too - take my ms sentence by sentence from the end to the front. Interesting!

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Based on what I'm experiencing in my own work, my new book is much cleaner and less overwritten than my first. It's also a lighter, easier project to write, so I'm not faced with such difficult subject matter either. But that said, with every project, I deepen and layer in things as I edit that were only in the back of my mind before. The last rewrite on my first book, I cut about 2300 words and ended up adding almost as many. The new words were better though, stronger and more meaningful. I cut the dead wood and replaced it with strong new branches.

The difference between my new book and the first one is that I'm not worrying about the words in the first draft - I'm spending more time on the story. That automatically makes it shorter. Then I layer in words judiciously as I need them. That sounds like what you are doing. By the time you edit your second book, I suspect you will have a really good understanding of which words and scenes to cut. It sounds like you do already, and you know what you have to do. Trust your instincts. They seem pretty sound to me!

Good luck,

Martina

KarenG said...

Don't cut unless you are sure!!

Janet Johnson said...

My first work need a lot added to it. The story needed fleshing out. Now that the story is in place, I'm cutting back again. Odd method, but it's worked on this particular book.

Good luck finding what works for you!

Theresa Milstein said...

Good Question. In On Writing, Stephen King says he writes too much, so he reduces his rough drafts by about 15%. But he says some write to little, so they need to add detail to their rough drafts.

Editing isn't just about a #. It's if it's the right length and detail for the story. Check for show, not tell. Is the dialogue realistic? Too many adverbs? Over or under tag? Is a scene sufficiently grounded to did you fail to add details? Have you spent enough time with your characters' growth? Is this midpoint change in the right place? Are the characters' reactions realistic? Plot? Climax? And so on.

I edit an unknown number of times while I look for all of these and more.

My last piece was incomplete, so I added 11,000 words just filling it in to make it better.

Good luck!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I'm still treading the waters of revision but I think too much cutting can be dangerous, especially if it's a shorter piece.
So long as you edit with the end product in mind, and keep true to your vision you'll be good. :)

Susan Fields said...

I had the same concerns when I edited my wip, which ended up at only 53,000 words. I didn't want to cut anything, but inevitably some things just have to go. I guess if it gets too low, there's always the option of adding another well-chose scene or two.

I did read the guest blog over at Justine's and found it very helpful.

Good luck with your edits!

Candyland said...

It sucks that we never know what "right: is. It's all blind. Whatever works for you...

MT said...

So true, we're told to cut, cut, cut - but sometimes we need to replace, replace, replace.
I wish I had a suggestion for you. I'm afraid I have the same question. Good luck!

Alexandra Shostak said...

I tend to use a little too much brevity during my first drafts, and since I write fantasy, that means I'm constantly getting comments asking me to flesh out magic systems better, or explain something in the world better, because I was too spare on the description. My latest round of revisions was, in part, for me to flesh out my world. I have added like 10k so far, and most of it was fleshing out stuff (I actually CUT a few plot points). So for editing a shorter ms, especially if it's romance, I'd go for fleshing out the emotional arc, and the interactions between the two romantic characters. :)

You're so right, though. Advice that works for one ms, or one writer, is not necessarily the way another writer or a different ms should go. It's really good that you know that, because not everybody does.

MBW aka Olleymae said...

I agree with Matthew Rush, get feedback from different people with different outlooks and weigh it all to come up with the changes you feel are right.

Right now I'm trying to make sure every sentence in my MS has a purpose and that all my loose ends get tied.

Best wishes for your revisions!!!

Janine said...

Go with your gut, because it's YOUR story. Only you know how you want it to be.

I also recommend the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It's fantastic and really speeds up the editing process.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I tend to underwrite based on the type of framework I use. By the end of the editing process - adding in descriptions, etc. I tend toward 97,000 words. Right in the middle for my genre.

I had a manuscript editor tell me to edit for logic, pacing, conflict, and tension...never for actual words.

Crimey said...

I have to agree with other commenters. Break down your editing in steps, and feedback is your best help. And yes, throw out that general advice such as cut, cut, cut. Knowing when to cut and when to add is key.

Dawn said...

This is kind of backwards advice, but I used to have this editor who used to say: Write it to what it's worth. He meant it more in the journalism sense (since he'd never give me a word count) but I've also applied that a bit to fiction. I tend to write "light" in the first draft and then flush out with the sensory and atmosphere detail later.

Shelley Sly said...

I completely understand what you're going through. I have two completed manuscripts -- one is a little bit too long and one is much too short. Your books are going to differ in terms of cutting or fleshing out parts of the story, but there are some things that I think would remain the same:

1) I'd give the MS time to sit before editing,
and
2) I'd give the MS to a beta reader to read. Rather than concentrating on lengthening or shortening, another reader can see your work from an entirely new perspective and help you make changes.

Best of luck with revising!

Tina Lynn said...

I tend to underwrite as well. My MS is very skeletal, dialogue and action beats mostly, almost like a script. Then, I start filling in details, but I also still cut. Some things simply don't move the story forward or there is backstory sprinkled in before it is *really* needed. But I agree with a fellow commenter above, don't obsess over word count. Just tell your story well. Good luck with the edits:)

Cheree said...

I tend to underwrite. I would rather get the story out and then go back to flesh things out.

But, when it comes to cutting some, I go sniper on those unwanted words (but, just... and pretty much all those lovely adverbs that end in "ly")... that seems to cut back a lot of words.

notesfromnadir said...

Read it out loud. It can really help.

WhisperingWriter said...

I really don't have much advice.

I just know when I'm editing my novel that I read it outloud. If something sounds odd, I fix it.

Nishant said...

The only advice I can give is make sure to get feedback from more than one source. With your crit group it sounds like you're already doing that.

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