Editing and Re-writing
I finished the first draft of Haven over two years ago. Once I got over the overwhelming sense of pride for having produced something over 110,000 words long, I realized that I now had to whip that 110,000 behemoth into something vaguely resembling a coherent shape. Shortly thereafter came the realization that I knew next to nothing about editing and less than nothing about comma placement.
I meant to put Haven aside for some time after that(I think the goal was a month) but I was impatient. I waited three days then read through it with Grammarly, fully under the impression that it would be ready for publication once I finished. I don't have to tell you that it was not.
For starters, reading through I noticed several glaring contradictions, one of them being vampiric inability to safely feed directly on humans without it leading to their death/ensnarement, and fixed them as I went. Then Grammarly made some suggestions that quite frankly, even I knew were wrong and I realized I wouldn't be able to do this on my own. I needed beta readers.
If I ever publish Haven I need to do something nice for the beta readers I kept in contact with, especially the early ones. Even then, the bare bones of my current draft was there, but it was hidden under wooden and formal writing, a truly impressive ability to go 110,000 words without linking emotion to body language, and next to no scene descriptions. My main character, Owen didn't quite have everything handed to him on a silver platter, but it was close.
Of the first four people I got to agree to do it, only one stuck with it. She helped me get over some of my grammar fallacies, like how to use semicolons, and pointed out places where things didn't make sense. One other convinced me to drop my prologue and epilogue, having only read the first three chapters, as the prologue was in a completely different style and did nothing to advance the story besides setting the scene a little.
Right around my third draft, my dad agreed to read it as long as I printed it out first. He was the one to point out how what body language I did have was pretty much exclusively limited to eyes, which is amusing since in real life I can't read any emotions out of eyes. That was what drove me to look into outside resources such as the Writer's Emotion Thesaurus and the entire Writer's Write series.
Over the course of three months I read something like twenty writing books, a hundred odd articles, and thousands of writing memes. Its debatable if that last one helped me or not. I lost bad habits and picked up the basis for good ones.
Since then I've probably had 15 or so beta readers, some of whom I've paid for their professional opinions. The professional ones were probably the most helpful as they point out the fundamental flaws in Haven and how to patch them.
But probably the most useful thing I did to learn how to edit was beta reading myself. For one thing, it connected me with other writers who also wanted to improve. Being able to see books at different stages of the editing process as a reader looking to improve was eye opening. Mistakes I'd glided past on countless rereads were suddenly there in living color. Things like epithets and filter words became tools to use sparingly. Scenes that draft one me thought were fine were suddenly lacking in emotion and motivation.
At roughly draft twelve, I decided to start querying agents. I've only received form rejections, but those too made me take a hard look at my story and ask how I can improve so the next query results in something more than a form rejection and possibly as offer of representation.
I've lost track of how many drafts I have now, but I think it's in the upper teens. I've gotten Haven about as far as I can get it on my own and I'm in a place now where I can afford to get an editor.
I've learned a lot while editing Haven and I look forward to applying those lessons to Avalon and anything else I may write in the future.
Next week we get to meet the person and pets I live with!