18 July 2011

Editing – Big Picture editing (the last bit)

I was a little surprised to find myself still with things to say about big picture editing.  I think it's because I do most of this part intuitively.  This is the first time I’ve written down what I cover for the big picture, whereas over the years I’ve created checksheets and lists of things around the detailed areas of editing.  At heart I really am a details person.
When I’m doing my read through for the big picture stuff I try and read the manuscript in as few sittings as possible.  The best would be in one sitting but I’ve never yet managed that.  Usually two or three sittings, but I try to make these over consecutive days and my goal is to read the entire manuscript in two days as this helps the whole process immensely. 
If I leave it too long between readings I forget exactly what my characters know and have done.  This is a problem for a lot of writers, we have the whole plot already in our head and this means we are aware of secrets/clues/history that the character may not yet know.  Reading the manuscript in this way also helps me to know if I’ve kept up the pace in the novel.
If you’re still freaking out over my comment of reading your entire manuscript over one or two days, remember this is big picture stuff.  I’m not changing the typos and grammatical errors, or looking for exactly the right word in a paragraph - that all comes later.  This is one of the main reasons for reading on hardcopy, I'm not tempted to start tinkering with little bits.  To recap I'm mostly reading it as a reader while making sure:
  • The plot hangs together.
  • It flows well and there is a logical progression.
  • The timeline is correct and realistic.
  • The pace is right for the genre and target readership.
  • Each scene is necessary, in the right place, has a goal and/or shows character growth or change.
  • The structure is working and doesn't get in the way of the story.
  • By the end of the manuscript I’ve answered all the questions I raised for the plots and subplots.
If I do get a flash of inspiration on how to improve a scene, deepen a character etc. I make a brief note on the manuscript so I don’t forget, and then carry on reading.  I don’t stop to type, make the corrections, or look through the thesaurus for a better word, all of that comes later.


  1. Good advice Shauna. I am just doing the same but it often feels unwieldy and hard to dominate! You have to have the story very clear in your mind. Keep up the hard work! Liz

  2. Hi Liz, yes it does often feel unwieldy, and at times almost that things are falling off the edge of my brain. I find a chapter outline useful at that point. I rarely have a complete outline at the start of editing, but when things begin to feel they're dominating me I finish the outline. I also find it an easier way to initially move sections around and check that all the plot elements still work okay.
    Good luck with the editing.

  3. I am story boarding à la Blake Snyder's Save the Cat example. It is good for checking plot elements. Liz