The wacky art of novel writing (part 3 of 4)

Missed the first two posts of how I go about writing a novel? Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Novel writing: Step 4 – The CSD (Crappy Second Draft)

This is the start of my editing process, and this first round of re-writes is still on the computer. I go through the manuscript line by line, chopping, changing, moving, adding scenes and descriptions, beefing up dialogue, and researching locations if need be.

I start looking for plot holes and places I can use for foreshadowing. I’m still not sure if every scene or chapter is in the right place, but a story is emerging, even if it’s not quite there yet. I'll probably go over the manuscript at least twice, possibly three times before I move on to the next step.

Novel writing: Step 5 – Print it!

This is one of my favorite moments, the time I feel the manuscript is ready for its first proper read. Not by anybody else but me, I’m still a long way away from sharing. But I print the manuscript and sit down with pots of tea and a red pen.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I read the document in its entirety, asking myself if the plot makes sense, if the story flows the way it should, if the characters are consistent, if they stand out enough, and if the dialogue sounds natural (I read it out loud).

During this phase I let my reader instincts guide me, and when I’m finished, the pages look like a blood bath complete with notes, stars and arrows all over the place, indicating sections to be moved, discarded, or added to. I’ll keep a sheet of paper close, on which I write questions and ideas so I don’t forget them.

Once I’m done reading and annotating it’s back to the computer, where I take care of all of the edits. Then I print the manuscript a second time, pick up my red pen, and delve into round two.

Novel writing: Step 6 – It’s a kind of magic …

Round two of paper edits is where the process kicks up a notch and when I start losing the most sleep. Ideas pop into my mind at very inconvenient hours (I keep a notepad in the bedroom and bathroom), additional plot lines are developed, common threads appear and characters really come to life.

This is when I try to ensure I’ve differentiated my characters in terms of how they speak, so they don’t all sound the same, and how they look, so they’re not clones. There are still many, many hand-written edits on the pages, possibly as many as in round one but I’m adding complexity and layers to the story that weren’t there before, and which I hadn’t even considered when I’d started.

At the end of round two I go back to reading - and editing - the manuscript on the computer.

Round three generally brings fewer major edits and corrections, however it’s when I add the sprinkles to my cake – the little details, the sparkle. No doubt it’s because I’ve been over the manuscript multiple times in a short period, so my brain is hyper-focused on the story, and working overtime. At this point my manuscript is all I can think about, and I’m at last starting to feel confident in my work.

Find about the last stage in Part 4.

Thanks for reading!

Hannah Mary

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