Process Notations – The Novel Edit Begins

As March kicks off in its usual snowstorm-y way here in New England, I’ve turned my gaze towards the next draft of Dirty Bone. Other projects with other eyes on them have delayed my progress on it, bumping me back a couple of months from where I’d hoped I’d be at this time of year, but I’m still optimistic I can get it into shape and (hopefully) submitted by the end of 2023. 

Placeholder Cover for my project notebook: “I Do” by Chris Peters – I found this initially on Pinterest via BienArt and Beautiful Bizarre Magazine’s posts, but his work, found here, is AMAZING.

It’s been a while since I last edited a long project, so I thought it might be worthwhile for me to document some of this process for my own reference, and why not do that here? I’m using the method outlined in the book Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell, and so far, I’ve printed and reread the first draft and started generating an outline of what’s currently there. 

As I went through, I marked every place where something I wrote made my heart do a little backflip, because I figure those are the resonant core of the story. Sometimes I’d jot down notes about what could change, how a scene could be approached differently, but for the most part, I tried to just read swiftly and without “editing” too much. 

It was the first time I’d read the thing in whole, because I wrote it like a dog with the zoomies, racing forward and then backwards and then chasing my own tail for a while. So reading it chronologically was a very different experience. I’m pleased to say that while there are a few time-glitches, plot-wise, it actually held together better than I expected, and there was a lot I liked. There are bits that won’t make the cut, of course, but I’m kind of looking forward to pruning it back to its bones. (Ooo, see what I did there?)

But we’re not quite there yet. Right now, I’m compiling an outline of all the scenes as the book currently stands, and I’ll be focusing my editing on that until I’m confident in what the rewrite will be. I’ll also start making a list of all the problem areas, things that need clarification, characters who need more complexity, and gaps where there should be scenes. 

Finding the time to work has been a major challenge, with the puppers hitting his teenage months and the three year old going through an incredibly clingy phase (which is both endearing and cuddly, but also really volatile and involves a lot of yelling). The eight year old, at least, is pretty easy right now, so I’ll take it. But what that’s meant is that most of my work is done in fits and spurts when a spare moment allows. I’ve had to essentially give up my goal of 500 words or twenty minutes a day, because by the time I can sit down to work without interruptions (aka: 10:30pm…) I’m flipping exhausted and my brain is done. 

Instead, I’ve started putting “write” on my to-do list, and anything at all I do—open the document, write a sentence, change the title, think on it for a concentrated moment—counts to check that box. Sometimes I open my laptop in a seemingly quiet moment and am almost immediately interrupted by one crisis or another. Other times, it seems like entropy is about to win the war and life will fall into chaos, but when I open my laptop to look at the document—assuming that’s all I’ll get to do today—I wind up having a forty minute quiet session where I get a lot done. Making the bar to check “write” off my list incredibly easy has also taken all the pressure off to “get things done,” and—by the delightful madness that is life—I often end up getting a LOT more done than I would have if I’d been trying to isolate a twenty minute session during the day. I end up dipping in and out several times throughout the day, and that makes the whole process lot more fun. 

So that’s where things stand as of today. If I can get the current-version outline wrapped up by the end of the week, I’ll plunge into the restructuring, editing process. I have no idea what that’ll look like yet, so bear with me. It’s going to be a…strange ride. 

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