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"Hi Ksenia! I am so excited you're going to go into more depth about your revision process, because your post about cutting half your words by rekeying your whole novel has me all abuzz with excitement (and, frankly, trepidation—I don't know why this method seems so frightening to me, but probably the fact that it does means that I should do it).
Here's the story of my story. I wrote a novel (a middle-grade). I waited a few months after the first draft, and printed the whole thing out and stuck it in a notebook. I read it through and made notes. I analyzed each scene to make sure it advanced the plot. I mapped character arcs. I typed in my changes. Then I waited a few weeks and sent it to my Kindle and read it again, and typed in more changes. Then I sent it to beta readers, and made more changes. Then I sent it to my agent, and made more changes. I had added scenes, deleted so many extraneous things, and tightened what I could. I'd gone from 74,000 words to 64,000 words.
We sent it out to editors and they all came back with the same rejection: "I love the voice but it takes way too long to get going." I put it aside. I wasn't sure what to do with it. And then, like magic, I won a free full manuscript edit from editor Deborah Halverson. I told her what the other editors had said, and asked her to very nicely be brutal. She wrote an amazing, thorough, mind-boggling edit letter and also marked up the manuscript.
And now I don't know what to do next. Do I read the edit letter so many times that I have it memorized? Do I print out the full manuscript with her edits in there, and read that, and then read it again and mark it up? Or, do I go Full Ksenia and print it out and then start typing? Or, I suppose, the question is: How do I go Full Ksenia on this?
THANK YOU, you are awesome, I bow down to your writerly wisdom. xoxoxo
Hi Julie! Don't bow too low, you might hit your head on the floor (and it's not like I'm very wise, either, not worth the effort). So. May I say something outrageous to you?
FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE AND JUST WRITE FOR YOURSELF.
Can you for a moment pretend that nobody, nobody at all, is going to read your book? Can you just write it for yourself without any fear of what anyone might think of it? This is your life you're spending on it. What for? Why are you doing it? Why are you writing this book? Because it means something to you. Because you're having fun doing it. Well then, have fun. Forget about editorial letters and suggestions and simply open up a new file and start typing. The thing is, whatever was important for YOU in those suggestions that came from your editors you will remember. What is not important to YOU, you won't remember. And so let that go. It's YOUR book after all. YOUR time you're spending on it. YOUR story. Then tell it the best way you can and move on.
However, since you asked. I will write out here to be best of my ability my detailed editing process, which keeps changing as I write more and as I grow, so whatever I say here might change again in the near future, and whatever works for me might not work for you, but hell, try it! See what works, what doesn't, and carry on. Because the truth of the matter is, I don't know shit. I just try things and see what sticks, and what doesn't stick, I discard.
Here we go.
1. Let enough time pass between the drafts before you start editing.
2. Read your previous draft from cover to cover without taking any notes.
3. I write down only what I remember and only what is visible.
4. I rewrite dialogue with the knowledge of what characters really mean.
5. I eliminate everything that doesn't move the story forward.
6. I get rid of places where "I tried really hard."
7. I stick to a very rigid routine and work every day, no breaks till the draft is done.
8. I read books that show me how to tell what I want to tell in the best way possible.
9. I repeat this process until there is nothing to fix or the story feels done to me.
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