Happy Friday, everyone! I sure hope you’ve managed to get more sleep these past few days than I have. I hate to pull back the curtain but let me tell you something about having a baby – sleepless nights start well before the child is born.
Let’s get back to you guys, though. Over the past week we’ve looked at the multiple phases of editing. We know that Phase 1 is specifically to add in the things you left out on purpose, Phase 2 is all about grammar, spelling, syntax, etc., and that Phase 3 is about flow. Once those first three phases are complete you can start to query agents (which we’ll look at again on Monday). Why? Because it will take them an average of two weeks to reply to your queries and a *good* rate of return for positive emails (the agent wanting to see all your work) is somewhere between 5-10% – that’s less than 1 reply per 10 agents queried.
While you’re waiting on those replies, however, you should be finishing up the novel and perfecting the minor details with a specific focus on the first 3-5 chapters. This is the most tedious and crippling part of editing – nitpicking your own writing and working on those bad habits you’ve formed over the past x years. You’ll be amazed at how much you use specific words – even after 3 or more phases of editing – and at how you never thought to change this sentence or that paragraph’s wording.
Let’s not get carried away, though. Almost every writer I’ve ever met (including myself) have a terrible problem with doubt and self-loathing. I’m here to tell you that just because you can rewrite that sentence six times doesn’t mean you should.
Remember when I first started this segment on drafts and editing? Remember what I said you’d need to do? I said you’d have to learn to “let it go” and I really mean that. The hard part is learning what to let go and what to change. Not every sentence has to be a winner and if you go into writing a novel thinking they do you’re going to get burned out before you even reach 10,000 words.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. While not every sentence has to be one that blows someone away they do all have to serve a purpose. Think of your favorite fight scene in a novel – do you know what the people were wearing? You probably do – even if you don’t know it.
In Phase 4 and on you’re looking to ensure that everything said has a purpose and that everything ties in to your action scenes (the scenes that are of dire importance to the plot). You’re making sure that your characters have the same features at the end that they had in the beginning (unless, of course, there were changed in the story) and that names don’t change. You’re focusing on consistency in the story and how it’s written.
Be sure to check in on Monday for a look at writing query letters – the oh-so-important first step of getting an agent. If you’ve got any questions or comments feel free to leave them below to tweet them @novelisthq on twitter.