Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Editing Series - Keeping it All Together

This is the final post in my editing series.  Today I'm going to give you some tips for keeping everything straight. 

I'll tell you up front, I am not an organized person.  I don't file my kids' artwork in special acid-free folders to preserve the memories.  I put the artwork I remember to save in an old JC Penny's box then stuff that in the top of my closet.  I think...it could be under the bed, or in the basement...actually, in might be in the trunk of my car. 

It's not that I don't want to be that person who has everything together, it's that my mind doesn't work that way.  I just think about acid-free folders until I'm reaching for that JC Penny's box and it crashes down on top of my head. 

As you might have guessed, when it comes to writing, I'm not an outliner.  I'm a panster all the way!

So when it came time to pull my novel apart and sew it back together a la Frankenstein's monster, I needed a system that would work for my, ahem, playfully unorganized mind. 

Here's what I did:

That pink mess on the right is my manuscript.  I printed the thing out and carried it around with me in a cardboard box from Kinkos.  I read it through, chapter by chapter, making notes on the pages with one of the four pens you see on top of the manuscript. 

Blue = things I needed to add.
Red = things to cut
Green = garden facts to re-check (my story takes place on a flower farm, so I had to make sure all of the flowers were blooming in the correct season)
Black = other things to check (this would be symptoms of various diseases, different little facts throughout the book, etc.)

A quick note here on the Green and Black pens.  I already checked all of my facts before sending the book out the first time, but because I'm compulsive, I underlined and re-checked all of my facts again. 

Astute readers might notice the pink post-its covering my book.  You might be asking yourself, If you have such a nifty color-coded pen system, why the post-its? 

The post-its are for all of those little thoughts I had during the rewrite.  You know, stuff like - strenghten the emotional connection between Character A and Character B in Chpt 2.  Or to capture the random thoughts that popped into my mind throughout the day.  I'd scribble my thought on a post-it then put that on the first page of my manuscript.  I ended up with 2 pages of post-its.  Things I wanted to go back and check during my second-to-last read through. 

You might notice the blue notes on my laptop.  That's because, come on, this is already 100 times more organized than I've ever been before, I have to have something that doesn't fit.  A lot of times, inspiration would strike while I was in the shower.  I'd get out, scribble down my thought on the blue notes I keep on a desk in my room, then go back to the shower. 

Told you.  Not organized. 

On my second-to-last read through, I went through all of my notes and made sure that I incorporated the good ideas and tossed the bad ideas. 

One final thing that helped immensely.  As you know, I had to cut one character's POV which was all backstory.  Those chapters were interspersed throughout the novel, so I had to go back and write new chapters. 

As you might have gathered, I don't write linearly.  Instead, I work on whatever idea I have at that moment.  It might be at the beginning.  It might be seventy pages in.  I used to keep separate files for my chapters and then copy and paste into Word when I was finished, but I move things around.  That got really messy.  Even for me. 

To help, I downloaded Scrivner writing software.  It is fantastic.  It lets me move chunks of my novel around and then when I'm happy with it, it compiles everything in Word.  Nice and neat. 

I'm told it also has an outlining feature, but I don't even know where that is...


  1. I too know the love of multi-colored pens. I'm impressed you were so concise about their number and use. I usually find myself starting off with one set of ideas, but as I go through, I usually run out of colors, and therefore it kind of gets messy.

    I write linearly, so ssome of this was easier for me. That being said, there was a chapter in my manuscript that basically said "Hey, remember going to Italy? Yeah, write about that thought you had in the Borghese gallery in Rome. You jotted notes down in your green journal on [date]"

    That was about 1\2 a chapter. I LOATHED myself for being lazy at the time, but in retrospect (having now written said chapter) I did the right thing by delaying.

    Any reason you made your manuscript pink? I think that'd hurt my eyes.

    Can you share a bit about what you did during editing before getting an agent?

  2. I impressed myself with the pens too! I was hard for me to keep with it!

    I've done the same thing you did with your chapter. Sometimes when I'm writing I'll know I need another idea, or to research something so I'll type xxsomething right in the middle of the sentence. Then I'll go back and fix it later. I hate it when I'm going back, but it's easier than interupting myself while I'm writing.

    I probably wasn't clear above, but my manuscript isn't pink. All of that pink is from the post-it notes I'd jot ideas on, and then stick them to my manuscript so I wouldn't lose them.

    Tomorrow I'll write about the editing I did before getting an agent. It was a lot less structured! (If you can believe that!)

  3. Just stumbled on your site though AW. Love it! I've been doing some posts on editing too!

    New follower BTW =)

  4. Carissa, I'm so glad you found my blog! I popped over to yours and read your editing posts. Good Information! Ugh, I line by line edits are so hard, but so necessary!