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?