I am editing the first draft of my light-hearted fantasy. And it seems like it might never be finished. But three things happened this week to motivate me into getting the job done and out the door.
I already made a list of some steps in the editing process here. These are the steps I use, and not necessarily a complete list. My personal focus is on story-shape, since I know that’s where my weakness lies.
But this week I went looking for more help. The first useful thing I found was an editing checklist from Holly Lisle, and a quote that helped motivate me to stop faffing about and get my red editing pen working.
Lisle’s advice is pretty old-school – it begins with printing out your manuscript (I know! On paper!) and annotating the margins, plus making separate, supplementary notes. There is a short list of editing steps, once you’re ready with a selection of coloured pens. This includes the obvious spelling and grammar checks. But Lisle’s final step surprised me. Get it out there, she says. You’ve polished the draft. Now submit it.
What, no third, fourth and fifth iteration of your masterpiece?
Well, no. Lisle’s take on editing is that the longer you diddle about with the manuscript, the longer it is before that story can be out at work, earning you money.
What a sensible idea.
I am immediately adopting her approach, to end the editing procrastination I’ve been suffering since last August.
The second thing that helped me this week was a quote which said, basically, if you’re reading this article about writing, then you already know how to write. So stop tinkering and start submitting. You already know what to do. So do it. (I now can’t find the exact quote, but if you know it, please tell me in the comments! Thanks.)
It’s true, I realised. As much as I worry about story structure, and hitting the various essential plot points of a traditional story arc – I do, in fact, know how to tell a story. Maybe it’s not sheer genius every time I lift the pen. But it’s a story. So why hesitate? Do the edit, review the finished work, and then submit.
In combination, these two ideas have fired me up. I do know what I’m doing (to a point) and I don’t want to spend a year fiddling with sentences, when my story could be out there gathering rejections (I’m a realist) which will help me learn.
I’m not saying that I’m going to throw the pile of mush which is my first draft out into the wild, and hope for the best. My submission is going to be as good as I can make it. But in the middle of February, I am going to stop editing and start querying. (I was about to give a January deadline and then I remembered a thing I have to do which is going to keep me busy at the end of January…)
That’s the third magic ingredient which is motivating me, by the way: a deadline. Self-imposed, but a deadline nonetheless.
Armed with these three things I am getting deep into chopping and kneading my story, Jo March style, to make it the shape I want. I already have a satisfying sheaf of marked-up paper. I have a notebook with comments like More needed here! scrawled on its pages. And I have a burning desire not to be still editing in March. I’m all set.
Are you? Let me know in the comments below.
Notes: The images above are of Gardens By the Bay in Singapore, showing its Supertrees – treelike structures holding vertical gardens.
Thanks to Pixabay for the free-to-use Supertrees image.