Editing Tips Part 2 from Author Michael Daoust

Check out these tips from published, LGBTQ+ author Michael Daoust!

Hello dear reader, and, I hope, dear friend. I hope you are well. I really do!

Now, on the last blog post we discussed the art of editing. More precisely, we discussed the sort of ‘mind-frame’ one needs, the essential mental steps that have to happen before the editing actually starts. A sort of pre-quel.

Today, I would like to stop and pause, and tell you how to start the ‘actual’ editing. It’s not very glamorous, I’m afraid. To do good editing, one must first have oodles of patience on hand. We must not be stressed or anxious or depressed. Really, things must be ideal upstairs.

Well, if you’re anything like me, that sort of ideal situation rarely happens. So you might as well chuck your book out? No!

Even if you’re not feeling so well, you can still edit -> if you agree with yourself to go over it later, in a different state of mind. If you’re editing in an anxious state of mind, go over it when you’re relaxed. Angry? Do it again when you’re happy. And so on.

But I digress. That is merely a trick, a small sleight of hand to keep in mind. It is another way to see how the words will affect you differently depending on your state of mind. It’s not editing in and of itself.

No, editing has many stages, and if there’s one rule to all this that I must hammer upon, it is to go from biggest to smallest.

Consider this: you have edited the scene’s language and grammar and word choice down to a perfection. It reads like utter poetry – the kind that you like. But then, as you skip to the rest of the book, you realize that this scene (which you spent uncountable hours editing) is pointless. Or worse! It conflicts! You must now axe this scene which you polished to a mirror-like perfection. How terrible!

Avoid this, dear friend, by following my aforementioned rule: biggest to smallest! What is biggest? Why, the novel’s entire arc! The plot line, the thread of fate, call it what you will, that’s the first thing to edit.

This, my good friend, is the part of editing that drives me absolutely bonkers. I would write out scenes on cue cards and line them up in order. I would make flow charts. I would – chuck out that book and, to be honest, have not finished it. I just haven’t got a good grasp on organizing complex books.

So, in consequence, my advice is to keep it intuitive and simple. Throw out the cue cards and the over-thinking! Just read the book/manuscript and take notes as you go. There! Once you have finished your manuscript, you will have a detailed list of what happens throughout.

Well now, you will remember that in our previous steps (in the last post) we had made an ideal list, based upon what one wishes to happen and convey in the novel. Now is the cruel time to compare the two.

Now is also a good time to remind yourself that you, my friend, are in the writer’s seat. You control this story, not the other way around. So, for right now, forget about the ecstatic trance of writing! Just compare your two lists, and take stock of what you’ve made.

Think, really take stock, of how you want the story to go. Then, look at what you’ve done and do your best to blend the two.

You may have to rearrange scenes. Drop others. Add in some notes of where the plot ends go missing and where they need to be redrawn in.

This part can get as detailed as you need it to be. You can add in notes about the plot elements, variate from narrator’s points of views or time lines. The point is: now you are organizing how the story is laid out on the pages. That, first and foremost, is your duty to this story.

Again, I repeat the rule: biggest to smallest. Remind yourself of that as you go through. Forget about the grammar and hair details! Your job right at this stage is to edit the arc of the story.

Once you are done rearranging all these elements or even noting in strings to tie in, I suggest you read through your novel another time. This will allow you to experience it once more, but in the sequence that you’ve now got it in. Follow through with your list, and make sure that you did indeed implement all the changes you were supposed to. Sometimes the obvious escapes us, so be eagle-eyed and sharp.

Now, my goodness, once you’re done with that cheer yourself on! You will have completed a hefty and important task!

Once you’ve had a sip of tea or a good day’s rest, the very next step is to move from largest to middlest. Yes, I know that’s not a word but at this stage in life, I really don’t care.

Middlest, as it is, is quite the same as largest, but on a smaller scale. For the largest one we rearranged and, much like a chiropractor, snapped all elements of the story into place. Well, for the middlest one we’ll do that, but per scene.

Oh, ouch! Yes, indeed, really though, you must do it.

One must, absolutely must, go and read every scene over. Scene by scene, one must see if the scene has the basic elements required. Does it have a setting? An introduction? Some sort of ‘point’ or revealing element to it that drives the story along? Does it have a sort of ending note, a conclusion or a cliff hanger?

A scene, you see, is much like a miniature story. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is often even a small climax or peak of action. Sometimes a dramatic reveal or other.

What you must now do, in other words, is read each scene (preferably in order) and make sure that it has everything in it that is required, story wise.

Are there the elements that move the intrigue of the novel along? Is there a grand reveal (if there is supposed to be one). Make sure that whatever you plotted into the scene is actually happening.

Again, I remind you of the rule: largest to smallest! Forget about the details of grammar, style, and flair! Simply focus on the plot elements for now. Are they there, yes or no? Are they in the right order, yes or no? That is all you must do.

Once that is done, my dear friend, you will have a book full of scenes, where each scene has in it what is required to have. This is a good thing. It is not artistic, (yet!) but it is what it needs to be.

And that, for now, is where we shall leave it at. Take a breather, have some tea, and relax. Until next time, take care.