Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Progress Meter WTF Moments Explained

If anyone has noticed, first drafts on my progress meter move up at a steady pace while second drafts and higher don't move for a long stretch of time before leaping upwards 15-20 percentage points at a whack.There's a reason for that, and unfortunately it's not that I do all that work in the matter of a day.

When I'm working on a second (or third, or fourth, or whatever) draft, there's more going on than just opening the file on my computer and making changes. I print out the entire previous draft, stick it in a notebook, and grab a red pen. Then I start reading, only I'm not just reading for content. I'm looking for typos, grammatical errors, continuity errors, clear sentences that truly convey what they're supposed to, clunky dialogue, strange paragraph breaks, things like that. If I find it, I mark it with a little note on how to fix it, as it occurs to me at the time. Occasionally, as was the case with a scene in Graduation Summer that I just fixed, I come across scenes that have way too many plot holes surrounding them. This is where my beta readers usually come in, but I sometimes find them too. If so, I go to the back of the previous page and write out what needs to be added longhand. It's a lot of work, in other words.

This whole process usually takes place over the course of a week. Once I have the markups done, I pick a day-usually Mondays since I'm off from my day job-and pull up both the file for the draft I'm editing and the one that is in-progress for the draft I'm building. I copy a chapter, paste it into the newer draft file, and start making the changes I noted on paper. When that chapter's done, I move on to the next and so forth, until all my markups for the week are entered digitally. I save the file, check the current word count, compare it to my target, and update the progress bar on the website with the new percentage to completion.

As I move on to future drafts, you can expect that number to rise even faster since I'll probably (or at least I should) have fewer changes that need to be made. When I get to the final draft before I submit it, it's liable to go from 0 to 100 in a day, since all that should be needed by that point is final formatting. If an editor suggests revisions or rewrites, that total will be based on the number of changes I'm asked to make rather than a percentage of word count target completed.

For the people who think writing is not work, look back over that. First, you do a draft where you get the entire story out on paper. Then you revise it to fix your screw ups. Then you fix issues with the content. Then you do another copy edit to fix the new screw ups you introduced fixing the content. Then you format it, then submit, then probably end up fixing more stuff you never even considered the first few times around. Sound easy? Didn't think so.

Also, if I may make a suggestion for anyone who tries it: avoid self-editing the entire process if you can help it. I know freelance editorial services aren't cheap. That said, if I could afford it, I would happily pay it. Doing it on your own requires an almost ruthless level of objectivity. It doesn't matter how much you love that particular scene, or how much you justify keeping it to yourself. If it's not working, rewrite it or get rid of it. If you want someone else to read and enjoy what you've written, it's going to be for the best. If you only wrote it for yourself, or to prove you could, why bother with future drafts at all? Just let the story be once it's done and move on. Otherwise, hire an editor. You'll be glad you did.

That's not to say you can't self-edit and it come out okay. I'm doing it, and I'm confident it's doing the trick. But I wrote the thing, didn't I? So how can I know for sure? I guess I'll find out once I submit the thing. Until then, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

That's it for now! Hopefully I'll be reporting the end of Demon at the Window soon, so keep watching until then!

No comments:

Post a Comment