1. Properly format. Using industry standards found here on writersdigest.com, format your manuscript. This should include one inch margins on all sides, a 12-point font such as Times New Roman, an automatic page number in the header, double spaced lines, etc. I have found the Writer's Digest format info to be the safest bet for submitting a clean manuscript.
2. Set chapters. Even if you aren't 100% sure you know in what order they will end up, determine chapters, give them a working title, and "insert" a hard page break after each, so the chapter becomes its own entity.
3. Print a hard copy. I've always worked best by going "old school" with physical paper in my hot, little hands. There are many benefits to using a hard copy during the first draft editing process, as my next revision steps will attest.
4. Post-It. When reading the first draft for the first time, have handy a red pen and five different colored sticky Post-It notes. While reading, make notes in the margins and use the Post-Its to physically color-code the following initial concerns:
- Plot: Plot issues should be noted and dealt with as a first priority.
- Requires research: Indicate anything that requires further research. If your story includes something based on something real (city, person, type of job?), and you don't know enough to write intelligently about it on your own, mark the spot with a designated Post-It.
- Character: Post-It any character concerns, such as stereotyping, ineffective voice/dialogue, poor choice of name (too close to another character's name, not right for the time period), and so on.
- Pacing: I usually use a red Post-It to note any area of my manuscript that seems slow. A novel will naturally have highs and lows when it comes to pacing, but too many red notes too close together in the manuscript will literally serve as a visual "red flag" that your pacing needs work.
- Formatting: Note issues such as a lack of chapter headings or paragraph indention, missing punctuation, a blank page after a chapter, etc. Basically, you're looking for anything that looks off about the formatting. Because this is a first draft (and, likely, there will be many others after it), this step must be done each time you finalize a new draft, as changes have the potential to create new formatting issues.
5. Rearrange. Once I've read through my manuscript and Post-It noted all initial issues, I decide if rearranging any chapters/scenes would help my plot, pacing, or character introduction. This can be tinkered with harmlessly by shuffling hard copy pages until you like the changes.
6. Revise. Before I start digital revisions, I save my first draft under a new file name, keeping the original first draft file in case something goes horribly wrong. Using the new version, I take care of any plot and research edits first, including moving any chapters/scenes as I determined during the rearrange phase of this process. I then work my way through the Post-It notes, by color, which allows me to focus on very specific issues one at a time. This helps me complete individual mini-goals and not get overwhelmed by the sheer number of edits.
Once I have completed each phase of the editing process, I can consider myself the proud, or not so proud, owner of DRAFT #2.
Which is a whole other type of messy.
Stay tuned for future blogs about revising your little darlings!
#editing #amediting #amwriting #WIP #SCBWI #nanowrimo