Monday, March 2, 2009

When I Go Hardcore

The gloves are off, people. Now that I have all the feedback from my betas (and a certain wonderful agent), Relax, I'm A Ninja is getting the spit shine of its life. I did actually train and work as an editor in college. Sometimes I forget my editing abilities when I get in creative mode, but the shrewd editor is out now. I thought you might like a peek into her process.

1. Chapter Outline
First, I organize the MS into chapter groups and file them in sections. Then I skim through the MS and write out what happens in each chapter. Not anything in depth, just enough for me to see the story arc and any repetitive elements. Then I write notes about what can be shortened, chapters that may need combing/splitting/refocusing, thing to cut, sections to move, etc. Anything that an overall look will accomplish before getting to the nitty gritty. Because if I am going to chop a whole chapter, I don't want to waste time editing it first.

2. Hardcore Editing
I'm about 200% better at editing on paper. I don't know, I'm just one of those people. Everything is clearer when I have a red pen in my hand. I prune, cut, move, change, add, organize, and punctuate properly until the papers bleed. During this time, I only let myself do a couple chapters a day because it takes up so much time. I'll admit right now I haven't done this for every single one of my books. I've done it for those I've submitted to agents (Sevene, zombies, dragons, ninjas).

3. Entering Changes
After I edit my two or three chapters, I enter the changes into the computer that day (or the next). I don't like to leave them all for when I finish because it feels too overwhelming. If I can focus on one section at a time, I can handle the enormity of process. When I enter a change, I highlight it in the paper MS to confirm it's been put in. That way I don't lose track or have to reread to make sure I got them all.

After I'm done, I usually send it to one or two more readers to make sure the changes are cohesive and I didn't leave out anything important. After I revise from those comments, I'll do one more read to catch any other small ticks and typos.


  1. You go girl!!

    This looks great, Natalie! I think you are well on your way to making it happen. I'm so excited for you!

    *shakes pom poms* Go! Go! Go!

  2. Way you are really organized!! I need some of that! I'm a paper editor too. I just find it's so much easier, and I feel confident that I did it right when I'm done. My recycle bin is full of wasted paper!

  3. That's supposed to say "Wow, you are really organized" lol! I was just trying to prove my point. No computer edits for me!

  4. I heart organization.

    There really is nothing quite like marking things up with a red pen, is there?

  5. Awesome. Good luck with that. Editing is my least favorite part of writing. If I could just sit around writing new books all day my life would be awesome. Sure, none of those books would ever get published because they wouldn't be edited, but happiness would abound. Ok, back to editing for me. LOL

  6. Candice, I'm not usually an organized person, but if I don't when editing it quickly gets overwhelming.

    Sara, it's true. That red pen is like a sword. I feel powerful when I hold it, and I even have my favorite brand, hehe.

    Kasie, editing is hard. And it's really not as fun as the creative part. Also why I have to break it into manageable sections. I get down on myself if I try to do too much in one day.

  7. A timely post from the ninjoid warrior queen.

    Since I got my new laptop a couple of weeks ago, I've been polishing up my manuscript digitally, taking advantage of the fact that I no longer have to be sat at my desk to do this. Right now, I'm in bed.

    Interestingly, in spite of this technological marvel (the laptop, not the bed), I'm running into all sorts of problems with my final chapters and your inked notes have reminded me what they are. I really need another print and scribble session on this. Then I can come back to the laptop. Yes.

    Love your edits, btw.

  8. I think paper edits are essential - ESSENTIAL! I tell you!

    The red pen is like a sign post to remind you of a thought when you've finished reading a paragraph/ chapter. And then marking down what changes that have been made and where can help avoid continuity errors.

    It's also psychologically important to feel that your physically tackling and besting an errant MS.

    I'm so pleased that you're fired up for this ;0)

  9. It's nice to know your process, natalie.

  10. I agree that paper edits are essential. I read differently when something is on paper than when it is on the computer. I'm more critical. I like the way you proceed. I need to do that chapter thing you do at the beginning to see the story arc more closely and scrutinize it. I also like the idea of highlighting it once you've put it in. I didn't think about that one.

    This is very timely for me because I'm at this point in my writing.

  11. Whirl, it's true. Laptops are great, but I know I'm not my best editing on screen.

    Janey, paper is essential. At least it is for me. Maybe some people don't need to do it. But I've learned that I really, really do.

    Lois, I picked up the highlighter trick as a layout editor. There was so many itty bitty changes—it was the best way to visually see where I was at. I knew for sure all the changes were made.

  12. Whoa! We're on the same wavelength. I just posted on editing...

    Looks like you have got this editing thing down! GOOD LUCK!!! Man, you're quick!

  13. It is easier to edit on paper, isn't it? But I have a dreadful habit of forgetting to enter the edits. Argh!

  14. Great post, Natalie. I've only done the Big Revision thing once, so it's really interesting to see your process. The pictures are especially nice.

  15. Michelle, we are on the complete same wavelength. How funny. I guess you already know my answer to the question on your blog:)

    Tara, hence the high lighter. I'd forget too, so it helps me see where I'm at.

    Thanks Adam, glad it was helpful.

  16. Oh good luck with it!

    I've just started on my first ever edit and gosh it is hard! Very interesting to see what other people do.