I generally avoid doling out writing advice (for fear, mostly, of launching into a 700-word tirade on today’s abuse of the word “literally”). But a few days ago, this blog post by Alison Jannsen, a well known and outstanding editor, went Twitter-viral, and for good reason: Jannsen’s advice is flat-out useful. I was among those who praised and retweeted it.
Here’s the cross-current: Days before Jannsen’s post, with the second Conway Sax novel due to my publisher by end of March, I sent the manuscript to my agent for her seal of approval. She loved the book but had, as she always does, some suggestions to improve it. I went through the manuscript, implemented those changes (polishing along the way, and more on that below), and finally sent Conway2 to my brilliant editor.
Thus, in the past two months, I’ve taken a manuscript from raw, first-draft form through the following:
- El Rewrite Grande (that’s a technical term for expert use only). Of the approximately 80,000 words in my first draft, 35,000 were thrown out altogether.
- The Tracking Edit. This is the go-through (me and my technical terms) after which everything must make sense. If Jane knew about the knife in Chapter 1, she can’t not know about it in Chapter 3 – even if that would make my life much easier. This is also the edit in which I lock down my timetable – in early drafts, it’s tempting to cheat and give your hero about 35 hours per day. Unlike Jack Bauer, Conway Sax needs to eat and sleep.
- Line Edit Plus.