Dec 16, 2015
The Stages of Editing Pt. 1 - Developmental Stage
Oh, yes. Our favorite part of the writing process: Editing.
This is daunting task for everyone after the creative melt down in November.
Let the Manuscript Rest
Let it rest for a minimum of 6 weeks, if you can. You need to let your brain take a break from the story world so you can return to it with a fresh eye.
The Developmental Stage is the first stage you should go through to really develop your story further. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year. Scary. But I love this stage, it's where part of you begins to believe there is actually some hope for yourself as a writer and maybe for the story!
Re-read your entire work, start to finish, and develop the material you have.
NaNoWriMo novels especially can be very sparse due to the hurried rush we feel when writing. So go through, scene by scene, and develop each one to its full extent. Even though you may have already developed much of the story beforehand, this is where you get to make it even better.
1. Develop Characters
This is the place to perfect the tone and atmosphere each character brings to the story. The little things you just didn't have time to put in before - the idiosyncrasies that make each character who they are, the little extra oomph to that funny, relieving moment, or that heartbreaking reveal - this is the time to put them in. If your antagonist's power is not as scary or poignant as it should be, add and take away to the scene until it is everything it should be. Same with every other moment in the story.
2. Develop Plot
Fix the plot holes. Plot holes are anything within the plot that doesn't add up at the end or make sense to the rest of the story. Such as continuity: in the beginning a minor character was called Hannibal, but it was switched to Linus later on. Or you begin writing a scene in the morning and a few sentences later the characters are admiring the moon. If a subplot, such as the mentor's backstory, was not finished satisfactorily, you need to add detail and bring it to a satisfying close. Do the same with other things pertaining to your plot.
3. Write Transition Scenes
There's a whole world of transition scenes that, if you were running low on time, you might have skipped to write the big, major events of your story. This can leave some wide gaps and jumps between scenes and events. Fill these in wherever you feel there's a need for some explanation so that one scene flows smoothly and freely into the next.
4. Develop the Setting
If you don't have a clear picture of your setting neither will your readers. If you're writing in a historical setting, such as the 1920s Appalachian Mountains, and you still don't have a good idea about what it really looks like, or you didn't have time to really develop it before, now's the time to go in and develop all those descriptive moments. Cut the lifeless garble, and really draw your readers into the world.
Go through each scene setting, the obscure room in the castle where your antagonist and protagonist are having it out, a closet, the blacksmith shop - stop and take the time to really look at it. What props and door knobs were just a little blurry before that you could develop to add to the overall effectiveness of each moment? What natural view could you develop that could add some metaphorical insight to the protagonist's journey?
5. Cut & Rewrite
Otherwise known as Kill Your Darlings. If something does contribute to the overall story, if it's in there just because you love it and it serves no purpose or meaning to the actual story and the plot - it has to go. I hate this. I hate this. But it must be done. Never be satisfied with the first idea that pops into your head. Over the years I've come to discover that you usually think of something bigger and brighter and more exciting if you just keep thinking about it. That's what the Developmental stage is for. And many times you have to write an entire scene before the idea you want to convey really becomes clear. At which point, you must rewrite it for it to make any sense. This also must happen in the developmental stage.
Save the darlings, though. Who knows, you may be able to resurrect them for a future story.
K.M. Updike writes young adult and historical fiction and has a frustrating fascination with fantasies that gets in the way a lot. She is the author of the young adult historical fiction novelette, The Life and Death of Terry Dodd. A lover of books and prairies, she lives with her five siblings and inspiring parents in the wilds of the Great Plains. Besides reading books and writing stories, she loves watching old movies and drinking tea in her basement room dubbed "Mole End."