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Two Pages A Day

I’ve been stressing about getting some edits done. Editing is not my favorite thing. I like the writing part. When I first began my writing career, I was so inspired by Diana Gabaldon that I emailed her and asked her about her process. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So how do you edit your story without eviscerating the characters, losing the love for the story while you pay attention to all the technical parts of the words, of the craft?
DG: O.M.G. I LOVE the editing process. That’s how I polish it up, reveal the real jewels of the story, find the buried treasure. That’s where my story comes to life.
Me: So, how many pages do you write a day? What’s your schedule?
DG: I get up to fix breakfast for my husband and then go back to bed, or answer some work-related items, get up again around 11 and write until mid afternoon. Then family activities, shopping, getting ready for dinner. I have dinner with my husband and after everyone is in bed and asleep, I go back to writing until 2-3 AM. Then I go to bed. I’m lucky to get 1500 words a day in.
Ahem. Clearly, I am no Diana Gabaldon. Now, she may have changed her schedule a bit since that little email some years back, but it became clear to me the two of us approach things in completely different ways. I can write 5,000 words in a day, and have done it many times. I’ve written 92,000 words in 30 days and 50,000 words in a month many times. She writes slow and loves to edit. Hmmm. And she sold how many books?

I had the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop with Margie Lawson at Asilomar on the beautiful Monterey Coast this weekend. I asked her where to begin applying all her lessons to my WIP. By the end of the weekend, it was beginning to look like a piece of stinky laundry. I told her that the thought of going into deep edits clearly with six different highlighters gave me a visceral reaction sending my blood pooling around my ankles like pudding. That was a pink, for those of you in the know.
She said to start with the dialogue, blue. Then do the emotional/visceral reations, pink. But to do one at a time. While doing the blue, you could recognize the dialogue descriptors and plump them up, then look at the pink and look at the appropriate power words…and then….and then… In other words, do them one at a time. Print out the assignments one at a time.
This morning I was at a meeting and I heard someone say they read just two pages a day from a book that helps them. Two pages. They stop in the middle of the word or sentence or paragraph and only read two pages. Because eventually, the whole book will be read cover to cover, two pages at a time.
So how will I attempt to do the deep editing of my WIP? One chapter at a time. I will apply all the lessons, one at a time, each color one chapter at a time. And eventually, the whole book will be deep edited.
I’ll get out my prospecting clothes and big glasses, and look for all those jewels lurking. I know they’re there. And now I have a method to find them.
Thanks Margie. Thanks Diana.
How about you? How do you tackle the hard part of editing your work in process, or some other thing you find tedious, looking like Half Dome in your mind?

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. I day-dream, think about writing, day-dream some more, have a glass of wine – get all loosey-goosey – then get down to the nitty gritty. 🙂

  2. I love editing! Love it! I edit as I go. Edit before I pick up where I left off, and I don't sweat the daily word count. I guess I want each word to count.
    But…I edited for authors in college so it's like breathing to me.
    You'll do fine – hang in there!

  3. I have edititis at times and must set the WIP aside. My first two books are undergoing about their sixth and most helpful edits now with a professional editor.
    I might try the Margie Lawson technique in the future to see where that gets me…perhaps to the Prof. Editor sooner?

  4. Julia,
    Hmmm… I'm dreaming up some kind of scheme, here. How did you learn to love the edits? You must be more akin to Diana Gabaldon. I'm hoping it rubs off. My impatience gets in the way-ALWAYS! Any special way you tackle the work? Or order of things?

  5. Edititis – LOL. That's a good way to put it! I guess we just do it until it sparkles…I think we have to do it ourselves, too, or we don't learn. I didn't get this freaked about learning to ride a bike. The discussion here has helped, though.

  6. Love the picture of the jewels. I edit all the time. I am a compulsive editor. Which prevents me from finishing and sometimes I wonder if that's the purpose of my compulsion. I should probably take a workshop with Margie Lawson. She seems awesome. But it's one more thing to do, you know?

  7. Edits…I edit as I write, no stream of consciousness writing for me, unless I'm writing poetry.
    What I do is this, and it's not for everyone: I set my WIP aside at night. When I pick it up the next day, I reread the last section I completed, regardless of how long it is (might be only a page or two, might be 30 pages) and I edit. This gets me in the mood or rather puts me back into the story so I can pick up my train of thought, or the train of the storyline, where I left off.
    After I complete the work, I set it aside for a couple days, then I read through it in its entirety three times, making corrections and edits. Then I send it off, if I'm subbing it, that is.
    When edits come back, I immediately drop everything I'm doing and focus on that book and that book only, no distractions.
    Because I've already edited, usually edits from a professional editor take me a few hours at most to go over. Sometimes I accept the changes, sometimes not.
    I think it's an OCD thing – makes me love details.

  8. Carly,
    I hear you on the "one more thing" – I'm the Queen of Such!

    But I wish I had a little of your problem. Yes, I highly recommend Margie's seminar, especially since you love to edit. For me, it was painful, sort of like a zombie having to learn how to write sex scenes (well, I have that image of zombies, anyway)….

    You know what I mean.

  9. Julia,
    Just three pass-throughs? That's awesome. The key you said is to drop everything else to edit, and the editing doesn't take longer than a few hours. I should be dropping everything to do it. At each read, are you looking for something specific each time? Or just what pops up?

    You hit the nail on the head for me, though: FOCUS.

    Thanks for the advice. I'm going to take it to heart this weekend, as I finish.

  10. I am learning a new way to edit from my publisher. The intensity of each line is felt each day. I have one year to complete the edit under contract. It’s four months into the process and I am only 25 pages into the 354 page manuscript. Wish me luck!

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