- Divide and conquer: Butchering 75,000 or more of your hard work is especially more daunting when it is all sitting there in one big lump – the literary equivalent of King Kong. I should know. In the six months or so I was trying to edit but failing miserably, all I did was carry around a huge manuscript, which was both a mental and physical burden. No sooner had I opened one chapter before another beckoned, distracting me from the matter at hand and reminding me of the big task before me. But dividing it into separate little blocks worked wonders: I literally tore each chapter out of the binding and stapled it separately. It made it easier to shuffle chapters around to re-arrange the storyline, but I could also take two or three chapters with me and work in small do-able blocks – on the train, in a cafe, in between appointments, which got me over the line much quicker.
- Graph it out: The structural edit is probably the hardest one of all, because it requires scrapping, cutting, pasting, re-writing and so on. And when that involves the input of your first readers (in my case, my agent, my publisher and my editor) there are a lot of things to work through. Graphing your book out into a timeline or table helps, because you can keep track of what’s happened, and what still needs to happen, before you reach The End.
- Paper first: There’s so much more freedom for expansion and contemplation if you work away from a computer. Working off a printed version of your manuscript means you’re essentially editing twice – once on paper, and the second time into your actual document – which gives your second draft the refinement it needs for the next stage of the publishing process. I find there is so much more room for movement when I am away from the demands of the computer. Scrawling lets me plot and dream and draw arrows and connections that might not have otherwise come to me.
But…every writer works differently and my set of tips won’t work for everybody. What other tips would you add here?