I love editing, because editing your novel is your big opportunity to improve it. You’ve created your novel, and now it’s time to turn that enormous mass of text into the novel you really wanted to write.
If you’ve completed your first novel, and editing seems intimidating, start with the big picture — and use Scrivener. For me, Scrivener Collections make editing much, much easier.
Before Scrivener, I’d print out a novel, then lay out “collections” of documents on the bed, and the carpet. Next, I’d create index card summaries of every document in every collection. I’d delete scenes and chapters by tossing their documents, and then type up fresh scenes, and lay them out on the carpet. It was chaotic.
Those miserable days are long gone, thanks to Scrivener. 🙂
Editing your novel: big-picture editing comes first
Some writers edit as they go. I envy them. 🙂 Others edit the novel once they’ve completed the first draft. Whatever your modus operandi, I suggest that you start with “big picture” editing. You need to know that your novel has all the elements of a successful novel of your genre.
Start with the story question. From Edit Your Novel: 5 Big-Picture Revision Tips:
The big question — is your story question clear and answered?
Your story question is the point of your book — it’s what keeps readers reading. It’s related to genre. In a romance, the story question is: will the boy get the girl? All romances end happily; if they don’t, you’re writing something else, rather than a pure romance. Mysteries also have clear story questions: does the detective or amateur sleuth work out who-done-it?
Scrivener Collections: review every element of your novel
What if you don’t have Scrivener? I’ve been using Scrivener for a decade, so I’m not au fait with alternatives. Literature & Latte have a list of apps, so you may find something there.
I find that Scrivener Collections make editing a breeze. I use it for big picture editing, as well as minor edits. I’d even go as far as to say that Scrivener Collections are the reason I LOVE editing. 🙂
What are “Collections?” As the name of the feature suggests, Collections are collections of documents. (By the way, I use Scrivener on a Mac; it should work pretty much the same way on Windows.)
You can create Collections easily. Perhaps the easiest way is by saving your searches. Run a search in your Binder, then click the downward arrow next to the magnifying glass in the search field, and choose Save Search As Collection. Your Saved Search now appears as an item in Collections.
Using Collections for editing: tips
To clarify — when you create a Collection, you don’t alter documents in your Draft folder, other than the edit. You can delete a Collection, and it doesn’t affect your Draft documents at all. You can move documents in a Collection around, without disturbing your documents in your Draft folder. However, when you edit a document in a Collection, your changes appear in the document in your Draft folder. It all sounds more complicated than it is, I promise you. 🙂
You can create as many Collections as you like. Occasionally I save a search as a Collection, but mainly I create Collections whenever I think they’ll be useful, either when I’m working on the first draft, or later, when I’m editing the novel.
To view a Collection, choose from the Scrivener menu, View/ Collections.
Let’s look at some tips.
1. Create a Collection for each major character
You can do this via a Saved Search, or manually. I prefer to do it manually. It gives you more control. Let’s say you’re writing a first draft, or are editing. Select a document in the Binder, right click on it, and from the right-click menu, choose Add to Collection/ New Collection. I like to create a icon for the documents in a Collection too. Then I can spot them at a glance in the Drafts folder. To add an icon to a document, select it, right click, and choose Change Icon. Pick an icon you’ll use for every document in that particular Collection.
2. Create other Collections: for setting, minor characters, plot elements — create as many as you like
While I’m editing, I tend to end up with 15 or more Collections. Whenever I think of something I need to check over the entire novel, I create a Collection.
3. Read each document in a Collection: what’s missing?
During the editing phase, read each document in a Collection, and ask yourself what’s missing. For example, if you’re reading a main character’s Collection, ask: have you created a physical description? Are traits obvious? In how many scenes does that character appear? Is the character arc obvious?
Creating Collections for characters helps you to create consistency. A character doesn’t suddenly change eye color, or act in a way which is inconsistent to the way you’ve portrayed him earlier.
4. Use Collections to manage your plot, and tie up loose ends in subplots
Plotting is trickier in some genres than others. If you’re writing a mystery, for example, keeping track of your plot’s elements is essential. You need to manage red herrings, clues, suspects, and more.:-)
No matter your genre however, it’s essential that you tie up your plot’s loose ends, and complete subplots satisfactorily. Collections eliminate distraction: you’re not focusing on the entire novel, you’re working on little bits of it at a time. This makes for easier, more creative writing, and much less stress.
How do you use Collections?
If you’re a Collections fan, please share your favorite tips for Collections. I’d love to know how you use them. 🙂