Editing Categories: Meeting My Story’s Needs

editing 006Before I could bring myself to start the paper edit of Planes Shifter, I searched the internet for guidance.

How do you begin editing two years of your life’s work?

I’d seen inspiring photos of highlighters and lovely desks with a fresh binder and notecards… Like this stationary picture, or  these highlighters… And I saw myself there, in my mind; this lovely fairytale of me at my desk with colours and pens, quietly fixing the small errors in my work. I even bought myself a fresh binder with a pretty owl and flowers. I got out my pens and highlighters, and sat on my bed, poised to begin.

But when it came to working out what I’d highlight, I became paralysed. 

I’d never edited on paper before. Never colour-coded anything but points of view, and that was one colour per scene. Thinking logically, I begun to make a key, thinking about all the errors I anticipated. There could be Point of View issues. Or “Ghosts” (where characters just enter or leave without a trace or explanation.) Out of character dialogue or actions. Then I slammed the pink mark down, and wrote “reword!” as it’s label.

I can tell you now, that pink one has had more use than the others put together. Because anything  that needs rewording needs it for a reason. Any change at this stage requires rewording, except maybe scene order movement. Which essentially left me with only one colour on my pages, and no clear view of patterns in my work. At least if each page contained some yellow I could identify that my issues were with characterisation.

And although choosing those colours and codes helped me get over that barrier to begin, I’ve found as I go along that I’ve had to add other colours for other things. One of my main issues appears to be pacing and transition between two sentences feeling jumpy. I still have info dumps that I’d call “rambly”.

It wasn’t a pointless exercise, because I got started. But perhaps I could have left some colours blank (just as you suggested, Ellie), and then I could have met the manuscripts needs a little earlier.

Because in a way, this isn’t about me, or my needs. It’s about meeting the needs of the story. Everything I write is just a note to myself on how to meet it’s needs, colour-coded lines and all. 

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