Other authors start writing with a general idea in their mind but with a willingness to allow the story to develop as they go. These "pantsers" may only know the basic idea of their book, or perhaps just its opening line.
Both types of authors work hard at completing the first draft of their manuscript but when they succeed in that, the field is leveled. Editing, the next stage, takes a hastily written manuscript (although the writing process can actually go on forever) and transforms it into a readable novel. Many writers abhor the editing process, but I actually enjoy editing a novel much more than I do writing one.
Here's an interesting fact about my writing process. I am preparing a detailed outline of my book after having completed the first draft.
Am I a "pantser" or a "planner"?
I started writing my new book in April, and a few weeks ago I completed the first draft. When I started the book I had a very specific starting point and a general idea where the story would go. So that makes me a "pantser". But I also devoted some time to preparing a list of the chapters and what would happen in each. So that makes me a "planner". Not exactly. I frequently veered off course as I wrote, introducing new characters and plot lines I had not previously considered.
Now that I am editing in full force, I can't remember everything that takes place in my novel. That is why I need to outline the story, chapter by chapter, as I edit the manuscript.
I happen to enjoy editing. When I'm not engaged in creative writing, I work as an editor. Grammar mistakes, misused punctuation, and poorly phrased prose jump out at me like a sore thumb. I specialize in making difficult texts more comprehensible and in removing repetitious words and run-on sentences.
Editing gives life to a manuscript
Editing a manuscript is the process that gives life to a book, so in many ways, it's even more creative than the initial writing. The first draft, rough and wild, is like a deflated balloon. Editing inflates the story, gives character to its characters, enhances the descriptions, and makes the action flow more smoothly. As you edit, you work out the inconsistencies in your plot, fill in the holes, explain the unexplained. Editing and revising give you an opportunity to switch adjectives, find better nouns, and delete overused adverbs.
I use my outline to keep track of everything that's going on. Seeing the storyline in a detailed timeline helps me understand if I've succeeded in making my book come alive.
This is not to say that editing a manuscript is the final step in getting a book into print (or digital print as the case may be). I am currently working on the second draft, and who knows how many other drafts will result from comments, critiques, reviews, and suggestions gathered along the way.
Editing never ends, until it does
Unfortunately, editing is a process that never seems to end. No matter how many times you review and revise and correct and improve a sentence, paragraph, or a chapter, there are always additional ways to make it even better. This is why it is important to take breaks from editing, to come back to the manuscript a day, or two, or even a month later and re-read passages with a fresh outlook.
I would never consider myself to be the ultimate editor of my writing. It is crucial to get a professional editor - a second pair of eyes - to review a manuscript and correct the things I missed, or messed up in the creative process. With my first novel, I had a very successful time finding my editor and you can read about my experiences with that.
And now, enough with the writing and back to the editing I love.
How I Found My Editor
Comment and let me know what you prefer - writing or editing?