ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

How to Edit a Whole, Entire Book

on May 18, 2016

Mom life continues to win, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. School is going to be out next week, and the concerts and parties and more activities and recitals and everything else is going to be done. Well, I’ll still be uniforming the band (nearly finished) and getting the pool open (next weekend), but the constant running around should end. I hope.

I’m deep in the edits on What You Stand For; I have printed it out and have taken to carrying it around with me. I’m also using tape flags to track the different subplots and to mark the scenes. This is turning out to be so helpful that I thought I would share the method here.

  1. Mark all the scenes with numbered Post-it notes on top of the pages. When I did this, I discovered that I have about 100 scenes and that some of them are only a paragraph long, so I have identified chapters that need to be rewritten.
  2. List sub-plots. This has changed so many times in this book that I really did have to think about it. What I came up with was the Kyle story, the Sara story, the wedding/family, JP and Brooks, and anything involving the case against the sorority. I also have a couple of running jokes I want to make sure I’m including often enough (but not too often).
  3. Mark first sub-plot (in this case, the Kyle story line) with blue tape flags on the sides of the page. Use a marker to underline mentions of this character or plotline. When I did this I learned that Kyle’s story completely drops out for three chapters after the middle.
  4. Mark second sub-plot. In this case, I used the Sara and addiction plotline and light green flags and marker. I’m in the middle of this one right now and have learned that this is the main subplot, but it also illustrates the main story line and the conflict between caring for people and smothering them. This one is pretty well-developed but when I get toward the end I will be looking at it as an independent story. It does come to an end at the beginning of Act III, although it continues to reverberate; what I will be looking for is this sub-plot’s three act structure.
  5. Keep going on marking the sub-plots. Continue to look for cohesion, weaving into main plot, and whether characters cross into different plots.

Having done this on paper now, I’m ready to try it with Scrivener next time. I kind of like doing it this way though. I’m finding satisfaction in seeing it on paper, and I’m just grabbing a pen and knocking out rewrites as needed. It’s also helping me to keep track of my progress instead of starting every session at the beginning, which I find myself bogged down in sometimes. I’m also learning what I would want to tell Scrivener to do for me in Book 2.

Also, I get to use markers.

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