It’s interesting reading about other people’s writing and editing processes. I am someone who obsessively edits as I write. I start every day going back and reading what I did the previous day and editing for consistency and word choice. I’m pretty sure that exactly no one recommends this writing process, but it works for me. Because of this, my first draft was much cleaner than I expected it to be. Also because of this, it didn’t seem worth my time to take multiple passes to focus on different elements (once again against common advice). Here is a summary of what I focused on during my first pass:
From an editorial standpoint, I looked at:
Word choice. I changed a lot of individual words to stronger ones. I even remembered a few places where I really struggled with the word I chose and for some reason reading it back fresh, it was so much easier to find the right one.
Getting rid of unnecessary words. I used the words “seem” and “had” A LOT. Like, a lot a lot. Using more confident and active language tightened up the draft and made it look like I know what I’m doing.
General proofreading. I’m a pretty strong editor, so I kept an eye out for editorial issues. Thankfully, there weren’t a ton.
The major issues I tried to address included:
Cutting out paragraphs that were boring or unnecessary. There were a few places where Erica just sat ruminating on something when it was super obvious from dialog or other cues how she felt. I also have a tendency to over explain locations and pared down some descriptions. Anything that felt like it was holding up the action got the ax.
Inconsistencies in character behavior. This was also mostly an Erica problem. She was getting a bit too cozy with someone she professed to dislike or was too sarcastic with people she wouldn’t be mean to. I saw this also in some second-tier characters who didn’t behave in the ways I described them through Erica’s eyes. This was pretty easy to clean up with stronger, more distinct dialog.
Too obvious hints. I realized I basically gave away a major plot point as a throwaway line from a minor character. It seemed cheeky when I wrote it but entirely too obvious on the re-read.
Unearned character development. There were a couple of places where I needed to add more interaction between characters to make sure it made sense how their relationships were growing. I tried to let a bit too much of that happen behind the scenes in the first draft and it wasn’t really working.
The Elephant in the Room
I got held up on the last five chapters of my review because I feel like the ending is rushed. I have my big reveal mid-book, a little bit of a cooling off period, and then straight to the ending. I wish it had more room to breathe and let Erica and Xander’s relationship develop. But I literally sat in front of my screen for two days trying to think of what I could add to slow down the momentum, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. The last third of the book is plotted pretty tightly, and I feel like anything I added would be an obvious afterthought.
I decided to finish my review and get it off to my first round of beta readers. Yes, this is my husband and my mom. I promise I will get more diverse beta readers down the line. I will be very interested to see if they have similar feedback. If they do, my hope is that they will be able to help me brainstorm what changes could be made to flesh out the ending. The book right now is at just short of 69,000 words and I would love to kick it over the 70,000 mark.
Do you know how nerve racking it is to hand your completed manuscript to another person for the first time? Terrifying. J wants to have time to really sit with it, so he hasn’t started it yet and I’m dying on the inside a little. But also I would hate for his opinion to be skewed by me nagging him about it. All in due time. Seriously, though, J—if you’re reading this—put it down and read the damn book already.