Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Writing a Novel, Part 3

This is part three in a month-long series on writing in honor of Camp NaNoWriMo. In the previous two articles, I covered brainstorming and writing a rough draft. These articles are based off my own experience, as well as advice and stories from the "Go Teen Writers" blog. 

So...you've brainstormed, (perhaps) plotted some (with sticky notes and colored pens and flowcharts if you're fancy; on the back of a napkin if you're not), and written out a perfect novel in about thirty days, right?

Umm...not quite perfect. Today we encounter editing. Depending on the author, this is where the magic happens or where the torture starts.

The Macroedit

This is where the majority of the work happens in the editing process and can include one or more rewrites (my current WIP has been overhauled about two and a half times). The macro edit is where you straighten out the overall plot and characters of the work. It generally includes things from the scene level on up. 
This is where the "plotters" make a little headway. If you already have (at a minimum) the major scenes of your work planned out, you have fewer ends to tie up.

If you're a pantster (this was the approach I used for my current WIP), this is where the major work begins. You know that big reveal you made in chapter twenty that you had no idea was coming? Well, you need to plant some hints for your readers. That character whose name changed five times? Make sure you get it straightened out. Did you ever figure out why your villain wants to do villainous things? Now might be a good time to figure out what separates him from the goody-two-shoes protagonist over there. 

After you've got the really big, earth shattering stuff pinned down, it's time to move on to more medium-sized stuff, such as the exact timing of events (Don't have your characters decide to go out to lunch "tomorrow" on Wednesday, then show them going out to lunch on Friday.) I recently employed the "sticky note timeline" for this method, which allowed me to move around scenes. I really liked it and plan on using it again. 

Each yellow note indicated a week in story time. Blue scenes were ones that had to be re-written or written for the first time. Green ones merely needed edited. Even after several years of working on this novel, you can see that  there was still a lot of re-writing to be done. 

Editing takes a lot of time and can be stressful. There are times when I certainly wanted to give up (and still do). After a few edits, it's time to send it off to a critique partner--someone who can tell you the plot holes that you've missed, what's good, what's slow, and what just doesn't make sense. I've had two serious critique partners and they've both helped me grow immensely in my craft. 

The Microedit

Also called line editing, this is where you read the novel for all those little grammar errors, clunky sentences, etc. It can only occur after you've already polished off your macroedit (or else you're just going to want to kick yourself repeatedly). 

I've been known to read my novel out loud or have my computer read to me to catch small errors. Run spell check multiple times. If it doesn't sound right, play around with the sentences. Go Teen Writers has some wonderful editing worksheets to get you started and they cover the process in far more detail than I have here (They're a serious writing blog; this is just meant to be a sneak peek into my own writing life). 

I'll have one more installment in this series covering the publishing process and some different approaches to it. I hope you're enjoying it so far--I always welcome feedback in the comments. Don't forget to stop back in on Friday!


  1. I still haven't decided if I hate macroediting or not. Granted, it's fun to get to the end and say "hey, my book doesn't totally suck after all!" but it's the getting there that can be a little hard.

    The macroediting is also the stage where I realize that I haven't done any worldbuilding... at all. May I suggest that it's not the way to go? *pulls hair out*

    Which side are you on? Hating/loving macroediting?

  2. It's really a love-hate relationship. I agree that it's somewhat of a relief to finally hit "the end" but I struggle with knowing if it's enough. I'm also a really big fan of the sloppy first draft, so macroediting is where I do most of my work (I'm a "plot-first" novelist, meaning that I typically have a good idea of what's going on with my plot but not with my characters, so I have to develop my characters pretty significantly when I edit). I'm getting to where I enjoy editing more, especially as I develop tools, such as the sticky note timeline, to help me out, rather than just slogging through the book. Thanks for the comment!


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