Selective Editing

I thought I would give everyone an update on my novel-writing progress.

Just a recap, here is my (work-in-progress) synopses for Not By Blood:

Brian Colt is seventeen years old and alone. After losing his family in an automobile accident he is forced to leave Alaska and is sent to live with his uncle in Washington State. What’s super awkward is that Brian has never met this side of his family because there was a major fallout that no one ever talks about it. What’s even more awkward is when Brian meets his cousin Rebecca Colt (step-cousin, thank God) he is reluctantly attracted to her. Brian plans to go back to Alaska and take over his family’s logging operation as soon as he turns eighteen, but first he must survive senior year and live with an unforeseen, violent opponent.

Rebecca Colt dreams of becoming a marine biologist. She knows that the odds are stacked against her and nobody believes she will amount to anything. Her nickname at school is “Hot Garbage” because her family is trash. The trailer she lives in is less sanitary than some of the dumpsters in town. Her step-father tells her exactly what he thinks of her with his fists, and her mother is lost in her pill addiction. Rebecca’s one-saving-grace is her best friend.. That is until her cousin… (eh hem) …step cousin comes to town…

I’ve almost completed my first edit, and to tell you the truth, it was overwhelming. There are so many things that I want to change. I realized that I needed to break the editing down into toddler-sized chunks. This first edit I simply looked at the story aspect of my manuscript. I asked myself: Do you like the story? Does the timeline work? Is it believable? Do you want to keep reading?

I’m happy to report that I do indeed still love the story. I’m going to go in and cut some scenes and add a few more for clarity, but overall I’m happy with it.

This is the plan-of-focus for future edits:

Second Edit-Character development.

Third Edit-Scene building.

Fourth Edit-Add more poetic language/descriptive detail.

Fifth Edit-Remove clichés.

Sixth Edit-Grammar.

Seventh Edit-Formatting.

I’d love to hear other writer’s editing process. If you would like to share, please comment below.

-Rachel McKee

Don’t Trash That Novel

If you are struggling with your manuscript and you need someone to ask you questions that challenge and stretch your novel to the max, then you should read “The Breakout Novelist: How To Craft Novels That Stand Out And Sell” by Donald Maass.

Here is my experience:

A lot was missing in my novel when I wrote the first draft. I expected the first, second, and third drafts to be rough, but I was getting frustrated because I didn’t know how to shape my story. I needed help, but I didn’t want to hand off a first draft for review. I felt like a protective mama bear guarding her little newborn cub.

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I also felt helpless and that I failed as a writer. I was ready to trash my novel.

Another writer suggested that I read “The Breakout Novelist” (TBN). He said, “Maass’ book is THE writing book to read if you are writing a novel.”

I took his advice and read TBN. It really is the best tool I have used to develop my story.

The Breakout Novelist

The problem with my first draft was that it was shallow. TBN asked probing questions about premise, stakes, characters, plot, theme, and so much more. I’ve been able to add depth to every aspect of my novel. My second draft has substance and a clear understanding as to what my novel is about. Every character has substance and aren’t just “filler” characters.

TBN has taken me a very long time to read, but purely by choice. I applied every point Maass made to my story. I didn’t ignore a single suggestion because I could clearly see how each one stretched and shaped my novel into something better. Maass also provided exercises to help the writer apply these concepts to their manuscript.

I’m glad I wrote the first draft blindly. There was something very holistic in writing from my heart with no other voice chiming in, but then I was stuck. My mental wall was growing taller every day and I’m so grateful that I found TBN when I did. It truly saved my sanity and my novel. I had to share this helpful tool in case someone else needed guidance.

Happy writing,

Rachel McKee