guest post: editing your first draft

Hi, this is Natsuya Uesugi. Shoji convinced me to guest post about the process of writing, production and publishing a novel. I thought today we would start with editing your first draft of the manuscript for submission. I wanted to talk a little about my process as we get grydscaen: metropolis ready for submission this Monday and we go about how I work on it and what to look out for when editing a first draft. So lets get started, shall we.

The Manuscript

So, you have your first draft done and had it sitting on the shelf for a few months gathering dust. I usually write a grydscaen book and then put it away so it is fresh when i come back to it. The specific book grydscaen: metropolis was written a while ago in a push to get the full series written one after the other with no breaks. Having worked with two different publishers and previously publishing a book a year, it has been a bit of time since I sat down and read metropolis. Just last month while I was getting grydscaen: desecration in production, I started back looking at metropolis ready to submit it in November. The book is finished, and now it is time to “pretty it up” and get it ready for submission. So lets look at the process.

Proofreading

When I first wrote metropolis I had a bit of a punctuation issue with the grydscaen books. The first pass through the draft was to fix all the punctuation related to dialogue. This run through focused on punctuation and spelling only. I was not reading for plot or for character. Luckily the characters I have down as 10 books have been published to date in the grydscaen series so there is no issue with making characters do things they shouldn’t, act like they shouldn’t or talk i ways they don’t normally. This was not an issue I had. This first run through was for proofreading and fixing formatting which will of course be changed when the manuscript is submitted and in production so I just needed to get it set the way I needed it to be for submission.

Spellchecking, sentence formatting, some flow, basic punctuation changes all were part of this fist pass. The next phase and pass through would be the main editing and this will be where most of the work is done.

Self-Editing

Once the proofreading and punctuation were fixed, I set off to editing the book. Having not seen it for a while, it was totally new. This was refreshing because it was not a chore to go through because i was too close to it. It actually shocked me at one point that I had written certain scenes with Faid into this volume that I had totally thought were some place else. That made the book fresh. I recommend stepping away from a first draft for a while so it is fresh when you go back to editing.

Sentence structure and making the story read right for the dynamics is important in self-editing. You want the characters to read real and the story to flow. Having written many books since metropolis was originally written I find that my writing style changed a bit and this needed to be reflected in the self-edit. There were changes made to mature the story from its original form but the main plot was not changed nor the content.

When self-editing, read for flow as well as character depth as you want your readers to really related to the characters and see them as individuals with wants and needs so all your characters don’t sound the same. Their motivating factors are important ad driving the plot forward. Make sure your story is cohesive. .This can be called line editing, but there is also content editing which we will discuss net.

Fixing Plot Holes

So I really didn’t have any plot holes in metropolis. The team had just come back from the battleship Escalon and the main character which had been Sati Ima in insurrection had shifted back to Lino and Faid. This needed to be clear in the story as the pilot arc and the battleship scenes were now finished but the lead in from desecration and the time Lino spent on the battleship had to be mentioned in metropolis to shift the focus on the story.

With the story solidified we brought back the nemesis of Lino so that character had to be re-established and made a major player in the plot. The Packrats also were keen in this novel and Faid’s role had evolved from only the Packrat terrorist leader to also Lino”s knight. With that dynamic, Faid had to also mature and we needed to see him grown and change. Also Lino was changed i the previous book so that also needed to be reflected.

If you spot a plot hole go back in the story in the volume and read previous chapters to make sure you didn’t veer off course. If you did you need to bring the story back to center or if you have a sub arc it needs to advance the main plot still and not change the story entirely. Be careful about character motivations and consult an outline if you have one. If you are writing a multi book series, ensure your previous book flows into this one and into the next.

Also consistency is key. If writing a multi book series they need to flow and the plot continue but each book must have a beginning, middle and end in its own right. Even if you end the book on a cliffhanger, you need to finish the story in the current book to move the readers to the next. Make sure there is ample “I want to know more” at the end of a volume to spur the reader to get ready for the net book and give them incentive to go out and get it or look forward to it.

Finalizing Story Arcs

If you have story arcs in your multi book series make sure they are cohesive and have an end when they need to. The battleship Escalon arc started in insurrection and ended in desecration when the Psi Faction team came back to the city. The arc lasted two books and then resolved. Players changed and there were some more characters introduced. They need to have their rightful roles and be cohesive to the story.

The main team at the Psi Faction is the core of the characters and metropolis needed to return that team to the City this time and focus less on the Echelons because the world had opened up. Lino as the Emperor is the main character and the story revolves around him maturing as we saw him grow in desecration and the stakes get higher. Ensure you close out your arcs or if they flow into another book that they two as a subplot have a beginning, middle and end.

Finalizing the Submission

Once you have the book formatted, dialogue cleaned up, spellchecked, plot holes filled and arcs finalized, take another run through of the book reading for pleasure beginning to end. Some writers read the book out loud. I have tried that but don’t usually do it. I do take a final read before submission and do the formatting of how I want to submit. Some publishers have guidelines for submissions so make sure you follow them. Other publishers will have a formal editor go through the book or you may have hired a copy editor or developmental editor to take a look before submission. Make sure the book is cohesive and how you want it and it is the best it can be before going anywhere near submission. If you are indie submission could be you self-publishing yourself, or if a small press make sure the book is ready to go before turning it in for acceptance. If going traditional I suggest beta readers and hiring an editor before going anywhere near querying or submitting as some traditional publishers do not take non agent represented submissions. Be careful the formatting when submitting and make sure the book is in the best shape it can be before you go anywhere near turning it in. If you are self publishing you will have to format for print and ebook, or you can hire someone to do it for you. Remember your cover art is also part of the process so be careful if you hire a cover artist and make sure the photos if used have the proper rights covered or permissions gathered if using stock images. The cover is important.

For me I do all the grydscaen covers so I know the art is original and where it comes from. If you hire a cover artist make sure you have a good working relationship and the artist understands your vision.

So when ready, query away and submit. Or if you have a publisher turn in your book and prepare for the production phase. I will be submitting metropolis this Monday after finalizing over this weekend and I know that I will be happy once I finish the editing phase and prepare to release my work to the world.

Happy editing.

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