To me, the hardest part of writing a novel is not the writing, that is easy. Very easy, it come to me so fast and furious I have to be on the case to write it all down.
The hardest part for me is the proof reading and editing phase(s).
How do you know when enough is enough and it is “finished”?
This subject is as personal as the clothes you wear or the company you keep, but at some point the wardrobe must be full and surely you have enough friends without looking for more, so when is enough?
From my own experience the first two proof read/edits are focused on the typo’s, bad sentences and so on AND making those all important notes in your notebook about the little things (or not so little) that occur and “don’t quite feel right” at the time. This could be anything about your character or the situation that in your mind has changed without reason.
It could be a simple thing like, “Dave picked up Jo’s ring at the beech” and yet later in the book it was Peter who gave it back to Jo. In my notebook i would pose the question, “who gave Jo her ring back, was it Dave or Peter, who found it?”
That allows me to keep on editing, yet i know that something important will be picked up when I go through all these notes in my notebook and search for that passage. That will be at my “near final edit” run through.
After my second read through, I let my Beta reader have it and await their comments. This takes time, so I allow that to happen, for my Beta reader asks lots of questions, make statement like
- “This para doesn’t make sense, who is this directed at?”
- “This is out of context”
- “Too long and wordy, break this up with dialogue”
and so on.
Of all my edits, the Beta reader one is the one with the most red pen on and where I can make the biggest “progress” in getting my novel ready for the outside world.
I usually have at least 2 more read through’s of the manuscript after that before I have a notebook read through.
This is one of my most important sessions. I go though every note in my notebook and this takes time, checking for that passage somewhere and making sure you are consistent throughout the book. Every entry is check, dated and fixed.
In my soon to be published “the Handbook of TOP TIPS to Manage Your Writing” I cover this process and the essential steps that need to be taken to manage all of these edits and versions.
It also helps a great deal to have your Chapter Summaries printed out for this.
After the notebook review, my final “big” session is to copy the file to another document and change the font to something entirely different. I print it off and read the whole thing again. You will find mistakes you have missed before, trust me, you will. It is an essential stage that a writing friend and tutor gave me a while back and it is indispensable.
After that, maybe one or two more read through’s and when that yields only the minimal number of very minor changes do i think the manuscript is ready.
So, have I answered my question, possibly. For me there area series of logical steps to go through in the reviewing and editing stages and until they are complete, I am not ready to say it is finished.
I usually know when that stage is reached, having read it through once more, i will find myself smiling and say “it is ready” because it FEELS ready.
Keep writing for you know you have to….