Three Part Editing

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

About a month ago, I had a mad desire to send out a query for the novel I’m now editing.  It’s something I wrote for 2008 NaNo and a project close to my heart. My query letter is ready, my synopsis is too, however, the book isn’t.
I’ve been through and done a total edit and I’m posting at my writing network. 

The good thing is that the novel is being read by Americans, one Canadian and an Aussie. I like this because they can pick out things which read awkwardly to them that to my Jamaican ears might sound natural. Then too, there’s the habit I’m trying to kick of making my sentences more complex than they need to be. Since my biggest market will be overseas, it makes sense to produce something that won’t have the reader scratching her head in puzzlement.

Now to get back to the readiness of the novel.  When I started editing a month or so ago, I came across a comment from someone who critiqued the story a year or so ago. At the time, Courtney felt the characters needed more to them, in terms of their personal preferences and overall character traits.  I took the comment to heart and decided on a different approach to editing this novel.  (Thanks, Courtney!)

Among the things I’ve done is to print out the chapters according to characters.  I deliberately haven’t done the main protagonist first. I started with the least likeable of the three women. She’s the one people don’t understand, or rather, they don’t understand her motives.  She’s brash and admittedly not someone you’d take to at the first meeting. However, I know why she is the way she is, and this is where her history/background comes in.

In taking the book apart the way I have and reading her story in isolation, I have a much clearer picture of her. It’s an interesting experience and I can’t think why I haven’t done this before with the books where I have multiple protagonists. More and more, I seem to be writing my stories that way. From here on in, I’ll edit those books character by character.  It only makes sense.

Reading through and editing each character’s story without anybody else getting in the way has enabled me to paint a more vivid picture. I’m delving deeper into each character, putting in relatives where before I’d only mentioned them in passing. I’m dredging up childhood experiences, showing each woman why she is who she turned out to be. I’m forcing them to use their strengths, talents, acknowledge their weaknesses; in essence, I’m breathing more life into them.

I suspect I’ll have to make adjustments in the corresponding chapters, maybe change the way these women view their friendship, so they’ll understanding each other better. I made some errors with my first published novel in that I had a character who, in retrospect, existed in an isolated bubble that contained only her love interest and her family. I believe in learning new things and not making the same mistakes, if possible.  The only regret I have is that I didn’t think to edit the novel this way before the final posting I’m putting up on the writing network.

However, I’ve no doubt I’ll emerge with a deeper, richer novel, and at the same time, move my writing to a higher level. Discovered any editing tricks lately that work for you? Do share.


  1. Great information, Joy. I'll have to take this into consideration. Love the blog. It's beautiful!

  2. Thanks for stopping in, Melissa. Glad this helped.

    Love the wallpaper too. I could spend all day messing with them. :)

  3. Joy,
    I always learn so much from reading your posts! :) Editing one character at a time like that sounds like a great way to really delve deep into their seperate personalities and such. I'll have to give that a try.

    Is that Sweet Music Man you're editing?


  4. Tina,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it's SMM and it's amazing the stuff I'm coming up with by working with each character in isolation, but at the same time bearing the other two ladies in mind. It's been quite a rewarding experience. I don't think I'll be doing my edits any other way for my multiple character books.

  5. I recently read a post of a writer that said she assigns a color to each of the senses and then goes back through her ms and highlights when each sense used with the assigned highlighter color. I thought it was a great idea. I write picture books and chapter books and am now dabbling in mg and ya novels...but I go for walks and think about each of the senses when I've written a chapter or a piece....

    Best wishes!

  6. Thanks for that, Sharon. Great idea, which works better than what I do, which is to check off in my head whether I've covered all the senses. The highlighter method would definitely be more efficient. :)

  7. I love this idea! I'm going to have to try it with my own work. Great post.

  8. It's working really well for me, Rita. Taken in isolation, I'm doing so much more with each character. For the two I've done so far, I'm going to include other scenes with their other relatives to round out their characters even more. I'm only sorry I didn't think of it earlier. It's also a great way to check whether I have repetitive things in there about each woman.

  9. Joy, I loved reading SMM when you posted it on the NBW site. I would love to read it again when you are ready for someone to see it.

    I am very sorry that I have not been around lately but I won't go into this except to say I have been sick. Much better now and hope to get back to reading.


  10. Susan,

    Thanks for stopping in. I'm happy to hear that you're doing better. I'm reposting, so feel free to drop in when you're ready.

  11. Hi Joy! I like your approach of editing one character at a time. I have friends who write whole biographies (on the side) to help them understand their characters and motivations better. Revising is a neverending project, for sure. Best of luck!

  12. Thanks, Stacy,

    Biographies do help. I'm determined to be more disciplined about using my character charts.

  13. I've started doing that but I have to tell you, it's not an easy task editing it that way. I applaud you.


  14. Too true, Clarissa. I'm on my third character's chapter now and I've made notes in each set of chapters regarding timelines/incidents and other stuff I need to cross reference. The good thing is that as I read each character's chapters I can cut any repetition easily.


Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you think.