What Happens to an Author When She Finishes Editing?

Last week, I finished the paper edits of First Draft B. Cue the fanfare, tears of happiness, and confetti. Now it’s time to pull off the gloves and re-type the entire thing with the new edits to see what we’ve got. And so begins the Second Draft.

Now, there are multiple things an author feels once she or he gets past another stage in the writing process…

  • Fear that what you wrote stinks beyond belief.
  • Elation that you finished it, you really finished it.
  • Depressed that at some point, you’re going to have to let someone else read it and tell you exactly what they think about it.
  • Proud that, upon reading over it, you like more than you hate.

I know some of you are reading this now because of my editing workshop, and I bet you’re wondering if I followed my own advice.

Yes, I did print it out, put it in a binder, and not look at it for a month.

The month I finished First Draft B, I graduated from my engineering program, moved back home for a summer internship between undergrad and graduate school, and visited with family for two weeks. So I didn’t have time to edit.

Lack of time didn’t stop me from lugging the binder everywhere in the desperate hope I’d sneak an edit in, though.

I was brutal with edits.

As soon as I had to read something twice, I either cut it out or re-wrote it. I cut an entire chapter because it dragged the plot and made Mary look whiny, which she isn’t. I re-wrote at least three chapters because they head-hopped, were disjointed, and didn’t make sense.

My biggest writing vice is that I tell too much.

This is a problem because I write historical fiction, and I know more information than will show up in the final product. I had paragraphs that sounded like I was channeling a history professor. Yikes.

To combat this, I read a number of books set in the same time period to see how other authors handled the problem.

I then went through a quick bout of depression because I felt like I couldn’t do it as well as the other authors. Turns out I needed more sleep, because once I got a good nine hours, I was ready to edit again.

I wrote First Draft B, a whopping 99,899 words, in present tense.

Yes, Trentwood’s Orphan is historical fiction. Yes, I know “history” implies “past.” No, I was not dropped on my head as a child.

I wrote in present tense because I couldn’t get into Mary’s head. She’s the opposite of my last heroine, Veronica, who was impetuous, a bit ditzy, funny, and determined to get her way. Mary, on the other hand, is quiet, cautious, analyzes everything, and does her accounting when she’s stressed. I’m more like Mary than Veronica, so Mary should have been easy to write. She was surprisingly harder. By writing in present tense, I felt the immediacy and was able to gauge Mary’s reactions much better.

I also wrote in present tense because it cleaned my writing. There is no “had had” syndrome in present tense. The action either happened, is happening, or will happen. But now that the experimentation phase is complete, I need to re-write the entire thing in past tense.

(Need help discovering passive writing? The Writer’s Technology Companion wrote a tutorial to highlight passive writing in Microsoft Word 2003.)

What are some of your writing rituals? Do you have a trick that you use to improve your writing? Are you finally convinced I’m insane? Let us know in the comments!

16 thoughts on “What Happens to an Author When She Finishes Editing?

  1. I actually remembered you yesterday, when I opened a box where I keep a lot of short stories that are years old. I left them there because I thought, back when I wrote them, that they were not good enough to send to any contest, but guess what? I like them a lot better now. So I'm taking that red pen and I'm going to be brutally honest with myself, because, basically, I have nothing to lose! I had even forgotten they were there, so I don't feel like I'm defacing my little ones.

    Good luck with your project!

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  2. I actually remembered you yesterday, when I opened a box where I keep a lot of short stories that are years old. I left them there because I thought, back when I wrote them, that they were not good enough to send to any contest, but guess what? I like them a lot better now. So I’m taking that red pen and I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, because, basically, I have nothing to lose! I had even forgotten they were there, so I don’t feel like I’m defacing my little ones.
    Good luck with your project!

    Like

  3. You have no idea how glad that makes me. See, it's a good thing to leave your writing alone for a while! I hope you post a couple and let us know where they are so we can see what you've done.

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  4. You have no idea how glad that makes me. See, it’s a good thing to leave your writing alone for a while! I hope you post a couple and let us know where they are so we can see what you’ve done.

    Like

  5. I had no idea that was why you were writing in present tense; that makes sense now. 🙂 I'll look forward to seeing the occasional snippet in past, if you'll be posting any.

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  6. I had no idea that was why you were writing in present tense; that makes sense now. 🙂 I’ll look forward to seeing the occasional snippet in past, if you’ll be posting any.

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  7. You are not the first, by far. My dedication to my craft is borderline obsession sometimes. But I can already tell the difference. I started transcribing to past tense and everything is much tighter this time around, so it's paying off!

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  8. You are not the first, by far. My dedication to my craft is borderline obsession sometimes. But I can already tell the difference. I started transcribing to past tense and everything is much tighter this time around, so it’s paying off!

    Like

  9. You retype the entire manuscript? That sounds like a huge investment of time…

    Maybe the past to present switch makes that easier, but I would think that just working with the electronic file and editing on screen (without retyping the good words) would be faster.

    Either way… congrats on being done with a draft and hitting actual revisions.

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  10. You retype the entire manuscript? That sounds like a huge investment of time…
    Maybe the past to present switch makes that easier, but I would think that just working with the electronic file and editing on screen (without retyping the good words) would be faster.
    Either way… congrats on being done with a draft and hitting actual revisions.

    Like

  11. Haha, this is not a normal thing at all, Word Nerd. I usually throw all my edits into an existing document on the screen. But this time, my edits require a new document. Both because I’m switching from present to past, and because there are extensive changes to the scenes/pages/chapters, some of which I’ve taken out completely.

    Plus, I’m a really fast typer. I’ve already retyped chapters 1-3.

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  12. Haha, this is not a normal thing at all, Word Nerd. I usually throw all my edits into an existing document on the screen. But this time, my edits require a new document. Both because I’m switching from present to past, and because there are extensive changes to the scenes/pages/chapters, some of which I’ve taken out completely.

    Plus, I’m a really fast typer. I’ve already retyped chapters 1-3.

    Like

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