Friday, April 29, 2016

the editing journey // taking notes

(so many notes.)

In my last post, I mentioned that when I sat down to edit, I realized that Skylar's book might need just a little bit of re-writing.

Yes, well. That may have been a slightly optimistic statement.

the workstation (aka my dining room table)

1000 questions to myself and a highlighted timeline

edit notes and chap. 14 summary

It's time for a moment of honesty: the main issue I have with my book is that it is really lacking in the plot department. There is no point to it, no goal to achieve (or at the very least, not one big enough to notice), no rising action or major source of conflict. In short, the story appears and happens TO Skylar. It spins her around a few times and then sets her gently back on her feet, with a wonderfully happy ending.
(THIS IS HOW I LIKE MY REAL LIFE, OKAY. So I wrote it into my book. whoops.)
And of course it would be lovely if life worked like that, but it doesn't make for a very interesting story. 

So that was where I started my editing journey; with a question. How can I take what I have already written (all 78,000 words, sob) and fix it so that Skylar happens TO THE STORY? How can I move her book from a fun but passive summer into an adventure with changes and pain and excitement and a little bit of suspense? How can Skylar rise up and take the story in two hands and RUN somewhere with it?

(After asking myself these questions and having exactly 0 answers, I got stressed and panicked and decided to write a list.)

I started out by deciding that I needed to go through my book again with my extra-critical (and completely metaphorical) glasses on. I needed to be more familiar with my book, to know it inside and out, to figure out what worked and what most definitely did not. So I went through all 300 pages again, and I took notes. Lots and lots of notes.

I wrote a chapter-by-chapter summary so that I could spread the pages out on the floor and take in the spread of my book at a glance.

I made a condensed timeline, with the important events highlighted and the random tangents spiked off in various directions (they will eventually be either cut completely or developed into non-tangents).

I covered both sides of a blank piece of paper with questions to myself  (some of which included "could the moustache man be part of the driving conflict?", "take out festival scenes?", "how does the firefighter scene feel w/ Mike potentially getting arrested?", and "why is her life so boring?"
I yanked out an old writing journal and made notes on changes I wanted to make, storylines I could add, character conflict that wasn't quite deep enough the first time around, and little bursts of inspiration I had while watching Paper Towns with my friends last night. (John Green simultaneously inspires and discourages me, because HOW DOES HE DO IT. But I digress.)

To be honest, I loved doing this. I had so much fun with my lists and questions and my gorgeous little timeline. And the more I wrote by hand, the more questions I asked, the more new ideas popped up in front of me! Characters that I'd considered for the first draft, but hadn't written in suddenly had a place again! Places in the story that lagged became perfect gaps for new subplots, more tension between Skylar and Mike, and great openings for Skylar to stand up and start to create change around her, instead of simply being impacted by it!

So, yes. I will have to do a lot of re-writing (50% because I'm cutting SO MUCH CONTENT and I need to refill the space, but 50% because I have a new vision for this book and I am SO excited to get it down on paper!) but I'm looking forward to it!

My next steps are to take all of these notes (which is a slightly terrifying concept, since there are only about a billion of them) and cut what I need to cut, and then somehow mash them together with my new ideas... (hint: markers are involved).

So that was step 1!! Or maybe, steps 1-4? However you want to look at it, that's been the first part of my editing process. I'm super excited to share with you what I did next... and then... on to the writing! Does this look anything like your editing process? I HAVE NEVER EVER EDITED ONE OF MY BOOKS THIS WAY BEFORE, so it's all new to me! Please share!



  1. Ahhhh I feel the plot thing. It's the worst and super hard and I've been trying to do that lately, too, and it's just...*bangs head against desk like ten billion times*
    Anyway, best of luck with this! I know how hard editing can be. :)

    1. It is SOOO hard Aimee!! So glad you can relate! I will join you with the head banging! Like, gahhhh. Why do we need plot again?? :p

  2. It sounds like you've actually got a really good start on editing! Making sure the character are active and actually influencing the plot is a struggle for me too, because it's not necessarily something I think about as I'm formulating the idea. My editing process tends to consist mostly of rewriting draft after draft after draft, rearranging/completely cutting scenes, and freaking out. You're much more organized than I am. :)

    1. Alex, I really really hope so!! And all the things that I HAVEN'T been thinking about during my first draft could fill a book by themselves. Help.

  3. Okay, if you are determined to edit now, then you have my blessing. XD Not that you needed it anyway but whatever.

    You sound like you're doing really well! I love how you went about starting to edit. I haven't done that before, but it sounds like a great way to organize and prep. And I KNOW--ISN'T EDITING TERRIFYING? It scares me so badly.

    1. LOL!!! your approval is always welcome! :) after reading your comments I'm thinking that I might wait a little while before doing any major rewrites... so far I'm pleased with the way the editing is going, but I think maybe taking a little time between the initial editing and the actual rewriting is probably wise.

      Also your advice will almost 100% be making it into a post at some point, jsyk!! thanks for being my conscience, girl ;)

  4. Ugh YOU SOUND JUST LIKE ME. Sigh. I would love to ramble for ages about this but I actually am supposed to be working on my own novel right now so I'd better run. I'm sure I'll end up ranting very soon.

    1. YAY THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. Go finish your novel!! You can do it!

  5. YOU GO GIRL. look at you organizing and rewriting and reassessing and getting your life together. I mean, it might seem crazy right now but look at you go. you rock and you inspire me and the fact that you just even wrote and finished a novel is O.O like I can't even do that. keep up the fabulous work ;) x

    1. OLIVIA

      This was such an empowering comment I can't even

  6. MAN, YOUR EDITING PROCESS. I WANT IT. I WANT TO BE SO ORGANIZED AND ON TOP OF MY GAME LIKE YOU ARE. ALSO I WANT YOUR HANDWRITING. (plz ship it to me XD) Also something that popped into my head while I was reading this: the fact that you think of all of this, actually question your story/plot/characters and look at them objectively is the EARMARK of a professional and successful writer. SERIOUSLY NEVER BE DISCOURAGED. EVER. Because you ask alllll the right questions and if you keep asking, you keep getting answers and basically shfkldjlknsd THIS IS GREAT.

    So I do some of the same things when I'm editing, too. ^.^ I've just recently returned to a novel I never finished (oops) but felt super passionate about, deciding that I wanted to change the plot a little bit (a lot.) So I wrote out a (mostly) new plot for the whole book, broke it down chapter by chapter, and now I'm reading through what I have of the book and writing to "fill in the gaps" where new plot must go and deleting whatever doesn't work with the new plot (WHICH IS REALLY HARD because there are so many good lines/hilarious circumstances that have no validity with the new plot and ehhhh THE WRITERS LIFE IS JUST TORTUROUS END OF. :P)

    I SHALL JUST BITE MY HANDS IN ANTICIPATION TO READ THIS BOOK (whenever that may be. no pressure.)


    p.s. i also love what you said about your character "happening to the story" instead of "the story happening to her." *mind is blown*


      Also, no one has EVER EVER said that they want my handwriting, but it has legitimately been my dream to have interesting handwriting for forever and I think maybe you just fulfilled that dream??? so thank you for doing that. :p

      The way you're editing sounds SUPER close to the way I've been doing things, too! And I totally considered writing to fill in the gaps, but I didn't know if I could pull it off... hmmm... reevaluating. :p Let me know how it goes!! Also I'm so sorry you have to cut things, I feel your pain. :((( I really really do, and it's the grossest feeling ever.

      I WANT YOU TO READ THIS BOOK! (but I also have no idea when that will be. meep.)

  7. I loved reading about your editing process! I also made lists and lists and lists of ideas and questions, plus timeline and map when editing my novel (the only one I've finished so far) after NaNo. I didn't end up cutting much from my first draft, but rather expanding it. (Before I wrote the first draft, I made an index card for every scene, until things got fuzzy at the very end...)

    1. Eep! Margaret, I'm SO glad that you enjoyed it! I typed this post up mostly to get it all out on paper somewhere so I could actually see what I did, and I'm so relieved to hear that other people are finding it interesting, too! Also it's totally crazy how many of us write books! I love it!

      ps. I never understood maps in books until I started editing... and my sister asked where Skylar's house was relative to the beach... and then before you know it, I'd whipped out a pen and drawn her a map and labelled all of the streets, and I just had this "I GET IT NOW" moment. :p So, good for you for having maps! I get it now. ;)


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