It's been fun reading how people work their creative process this week. Like everything else about writing, editing can be a pretty personal thing - we've all got different ways of making sure we put out the best story we can. So what do I do before sending my manuscript out?
Well, for one thing - I finish it. I've come to realize that I *have* to have a finished draft. I've tried doing the "edit as I go with a crit partner" thing a few times and it's a complete disaster. I know that works for some people, but if I get too caught up in editing what I've got before the story is done, there's a real good chance it won't get done at all. It's too easy for me to get sucked into all the little details - for a panster like me, that's the kiss of death. (Plus, I know I've fallen into the "edit as procrastination" lull before. It's too easy to make the excuse that "I'm editing, so I don't need to write." Okay for a day or two, but more than that?
Okay - so assuming I've got my rough draft in hand, what do I do?
1) Plot holes and rewrites. This is possibly a bit more complicated than it sounds. Since I don't really edit as I write, if I change my mind partway through about a particular plot device, I note it in red and then continue writing the story as though I'd been doing it all along. (Seriously? In A Sliver of Shadow, there's a particular knife that kept appearing and reappearing in the draft because I couldn't quite figure out if Abby needed it at certain points or not, so it took me a while to get that straightened out. Also? I tend to rewrite about 50% of my books during this stage, though I'm trying to be better about it and maybe actually attempt to plot with these next few stories. I suspect I'll save myself a lot of effort in the long run. (Though this may just be how I work. I've often added stuff in at the very last moment during copyedits, so I don't know.)
2) Assuming I've got the story straightened out - now it's time for sentence polishing - getting rid of passive voice and odd turns of phrase. Also - each publishing house has it's own stylesheet - usually lists of words they want spelled a certain way, eg. toward vs towards. I usually hit these up at this point too.
3) Then we have grammar and whatever line editing I can do. (There's no point in me doing it any sooner than this - why edit something I may take out later? Waste of time.) I'm notorious with word echoes - using the same word or phrase too close together. Like my fellow word-whores, I've got a list of the worst offenders. (Just, back, gaze, etc.) And while I do search them down, I also like to have fun with this part - so I will use a word mosaic to help me out. Specifically I use Wordle, but there are several out there that do similar things.
For example - here's the wordle created for my original draft of A Sliver of Shadow:
The words I use the most show up the largest. I'm not so concerned about Talivar, though perhaps it's worth going through to see if there's a better way of referencing him. But ugh - back, head, eyes, just, like? Yeah those are problems.
After a I go over the manuscript several times and remove the echoes and tighten up the sentences, I'm left with this:
4) At some point along the way, I've hopefully sent this off to beta readers and I go back and attempt to implement any changes that seem necessary. However - I've had to learn to be very careful with this. When I first started out, I was in a crit group and I had too many people looking at it - and I kept trying to make everyone happy. What I ended up with was several over-polished chapters that completely lost all sense of my "voice." (Ask Jeffe what A Brush of Darkness looked like during that time - she's the one that pointed it out to me and she was completely right.) Sometimes it's better for me to take a few steps away from the piece and let it sit for a week or so - being ruthless during editing is fine, but you don't want to edit out everything that makes the story yours, if that makes any sense?
5) I run through everything a final time, suck it up and send it off - to my agent or my editor, whichever needs it first. And then I sit and wait and wait and wait. Get my edits and weep for a bit and then start the process over again. ;-)
Rinse and repeat, as needed. (Or until the deadline hits, whichever comes first.)