Just before Halloween, I finished writing my first novel. I made two promises to myself that day. First, that I would not look at it before December 1st, and second, that I would look at it on that day. Today is December 1st, and it is time to become an axe-wielding maniac.
Not literally of course, but that is what my first edit will amount to. Today, I take my proverbial axe to my work. I plan not to look for what is good, but to cut out everything that is bad, sloppy, or even just a little weak. I have had some success with short stories and poetry, but this is the first novel I ever finished. I am amazed that I finally finished something so massive. Out of 90,000 (roughly) words—about 400 pages in the current format which is fairly close to how long it would be in paperback form—I hope to keep less than 50,000 in the second draft.
Just like a human body, a body of literature can suffer from gangrene. One single chapter or paragraph that is dead and lifeless is just as dangerous to your story’s life as a dead limb is to your real life. Step one is to cut every word that does not absolutely need to be in my story. Step two will be to go back and rebuild what I have destroyed.
As much as I am getting tired of Microsoft products, Word does offer me an excellent method to handle this massive attack. By turning on “Track Changes” I can feel free to delete entire lines, paragraphs, or even pages without actually losing them. When my ink-lust (it’s like blood-lust, but stories don’t bleed) has abated, I can then go back and look at where I might have been too quick to cut. I can even add comments to myself. This can be incredibly useful for the other me, because crazy editing me might see things that gentle editing me does not.
I hope that this entire process will take less than a month. When the third draft is done, I will start looking for readers. I would be embarrassed to push my book out as is, but there is more to it than that. If I get pre-readers giving me dozens of fixes all at once, then it will be nearly impossible to evaluate them all. Hopefully, my third draft will be mostly complete.
I am still aiming for a spring 2014 release. I am working on my second novel right now (for NaNoWriMo), and I plan to edit that for a 2015 release.