Yesterday I finished reading the printed out copy of my manuscript and marking it up. Today starts the process of inputting those changes.
The reason I printed my MS out was so that I could look at it through a different medium, so that I could have a way to look at it with fresh eyes. Does this mean I caught all of my mistakes? Absolutely not. The words read familiar in my brain, so I was able to speed-read through most of it. Self-editing is, by no means, necessary or the best way to edit a manuscript.
I plan to do at least two rounds of self-edits before I search for Critique Partners. I guess I could have foregone the entire self-edits, but there were still too much inconsistencies from my 2nd draft rewrite that I needed to address. And to be quite honest, the thought of having others read it and tear it apart at the seams still makes me anxious and a bit sick to my stomach. I want to give my best before I bring others in to make it better.
“Make it better.” That’s what I will have to remind myself when I receive feedback from CPs.
Thus far, my writing/revising process has gone like this:
Stage One: THE OUTLINE. My novel began when I took an Introduction to Novel Writing course towards my English major electives. I was forced to write a bullet point with major plot points for the first time. After that came the outline. From that outline came the first ten pages. That was when my story began.
When I finally decided to get serious about my writing, I took that outline and wrote a more in-depth one. From there, my story became very, very real to me. I wrote as many outlines as I needed to in order to get started.
Stage Two: THE FIRST DRAFT. I bumbled and fumbled and tripped and fell. I reached around blindly and wrote like a madman for a good month. 105k words. My hands suffered for it, but I finished and I fretted and I worried. Why?
Because my writing was atrocious and I felt as if I’d lost my voice. My style. My mojo. I all but fizzled out. And then I learned that I wasn’t the only one. That first drafts are meant to be terrible. They’re meant to be you telling the story to you. There’s going to be so many holes that you won’t be able to plug them all on rainy days. And it’s those rainy days when the flood comes in that you’ll really doubt yourself.
Just keep swimming.
Stage Three: THE SECOND DRAFT/REWRITE. This is where things can be different for everyone. I decided to approach the second draft by rewriting my ENTIRE manuscript. I thought it was going to be an easy way of editing. Boy was I wrong.
I ended up changing not just a few chapters, but the entire half of my story. At this point, I felt like I was writing a new one. And that’s where the rewriting blurs. It took me nearly three months to finish stage three because I had to figure my story out all over again. Plus the pain in my hands and overall lack of motivation. And it sucked at first. It really, really did.
But I took the plunge. I had to push aside my suffering of changing entire chapters and parts. I had to start from near-scratch. I even had to make a new outline towards the end — and you know what? I didn’t even use most of it. But it helped. It helped when I got stuck, because it enabled me to brainstorm new ideas. New approaches. A different ending.
Stage Four: SELF-EDITS. And this is where I am currently at. I decided to print out all 414 pages of my manuscript because I thought it would be easier to edit that way. There’s something nice about being able to scratch up paper (and taking a break from staring at the computer screen). There’s something even nicer about holding a hard copy of your story.
I finished marking up those pages yesterday, and I know there’s still so much that I’ve missed. But today I will start inputting those changes. I’m not sure how long this will take. I’m hoping to get it all done within the week, and then do a second round of self-edits. And perhaps a third.
What I’ve learned is that self-editing is all about hopes. It’s hoping I won’t have to make too many edits, knowing I will need to make a lot of edits. Hoping I can make it as good as I can get it to be before I find Critique Partners. It’s hoping I’ll be more brave at that point, have a tougher shell, won’t want to pull my hair out over every piece of feedback. It’s hoping my CPs will love my story as much as I do.
I’ll share the next stages as I get to them. Right now I’m bright-eyed and optimistic about the editing process, but we’ll see how long this lasts ;).