Editing, cleaning, and the simplicity of layers

Yeah. I wish!

Yeah. I wish!

Earlier this week, my eight-year-old daughter and I discussed the lack of cleaning in her bedroom. She usually comes up with an excuse. The most recent, which was probably the most believable I’ve heard lately, was “I don’t know where to start.” She grabbed her head for emphasis and said, “My head is confused!” That’s because the room looked like a bomb had exploded in there! Really.

Once we established that she would not receive any assistance from me (this time), I told her my plan. This was not the first time I relayed this idea to her.

The first step in our my quest for a tidy room was for her to pick up all of her clothes and drop them in the hamper, which was a few feet away. Yes, I know. Why not drop them in there in the first place? I have no clue.

Step two involved picking up all toys from the floor and placing them in the toy box.

Lastly, she was to pick up anything else that remained on the floor.

I thought the step-by-step clean the room layering system would help make this big project into something more reasonable. I told her that focusing on one thing at a time would be easier for her than trying to do everything at once. Layering.

Later that evening, I thought about how cleaning a messy room in layers was similar to editing a manuscript. Have you ever printed out a first draft, pen in hand, and marked it up? What a mess!  When I edit I use colored gel pens. My mess is colorful. You probably trash parts of your manuscript. I know that I do! Perhaps you rearrange paragraphs or scenes. My daughter could do the same by tossing toys or dirty clothing into their proper, and nearly empty, containers.

Writers might choose to edit as they go or wait until the first draft is finished, then tackle one task at a time. Layering. The first layer could be an overview of your plot and story structure. Perhaps your characterization would be next. Or maybe you’d check your dialogue. Are the characters distinguishable from one another? Does it sound stilted? Would you proofread for grammar, spelling, and punctuation next? What about too much narrative or skimpy scenes without enough conflict? All of these could be viewed as a layer in the editing process. Each time you peel back a layer, you get closer to a polished manuscript. Your characters would be three-dimensional, your scenes vivid, and your plot riveting!

How do you peel the layers of your work-in-progress? Do you rip them all off at once or one layer at a time?

About danielleleneedavis

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time? Eating chocolate. Okay, seriously? I'm usually working at my day job, reading, or helping my daughter with her homework. Those who know me know that I'm not kidding about the chocolate. :-)
This entry was posted in books, Children, Humor, random thoughts, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Editing, cleaning, and the simplicity of layers

  1. barbtaub says:

    First, I love the layering concept! My mind doesn’t work that way, but I sure wish it did. My current mode is to write like a demon and when inspiration fizzles, I go back to edit. Yes, you’re right. WAY too many passes that way.

    Second, I just have to ask. How is your daughter’s room looking?

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    • I like your method of writing, then using time that could otherwise be nonproductive, to get something done. For the next book, I plan to write the complete first draft before doing any editing. We’ll see how that goes. 🙂

      As far as my daughter, she picked up half a layer of clothing. The re-layering should start any day now.

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  2. Jenny Sturgill says:

    Good advice for editing.
    As for your daughter, I hope she doesn’t put clean clothes in the dirty hamper like mine did 🙂

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  3. Great analogy! I’m quite unusual in my editing style I think because I don’t really have definable drafts. That is to say I don’t print out any of my work. I type my story from my thoughts straight on to the computer.

    I go back and forwards a bit as I write, correcting and amending things. Then once I’ve finished the story, I read it through on my computer and once I’m happy with it – I guess you could call it the first draft at this stage – I send it off to beta readers.

    Once they’ve got back to me with their thoughts I go through and edit my novel in line with their suggestions. Then when I’m happy with that I send it to my proofreader and then when they return it to me with their amendments, I edit it again, then prepare to publish.

    Phew! That’s a long explanation, but it’s basically how I write. It may not sound that organised, but it works for me. 🙂

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    • Thanks for the input, Elaine! We all do what works for us. 🙂 I usually type mine into the computer as well. However, there are times when I write it out in a notebook, then type it up.

      While I was writing my first novel I took the printed manuscript or a chapter (or two) with me to my day job and worked on it at lunch. When I printed my drafts I found that I saw things that I’d missed when I looked at them on the monitor. Reading it on an ereader helped me see items I’d missed and got me into ‘reader’ mode, rather than editor or writer mode.

      During all of that and afterwards, I had it professionally edited. It went through other editing rounds by others, including law enforcement to make sure that I had those details accurate. I then had it proofread and copyedited. Even with all of that, there were still changes that needed to be made after I published it. They weren’t as big as they could’ve been, though! 🙂

      Good luck with your current WIP. 🙂

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  4. Good post, Dani! Seems like everyone has their own way when it comes to writing and editing. I like to read how others work and a good suggestion here and there can’t hurt any for sure! 🙂

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