Editing Pains

I don’t like not working on my novel; I want to get it done.  And since I seemed to be meeting a block when it came to continuing my heavy edits, I decided to address this scary stack of notes that has been piling up–little quarter sheets of A4 paper that I use to jot down notes on changes I need to make or errors I need to fix (see the heading “Scribble & Clip It“).  Yes, you fix the big things first, but then that’s likely to leave a lot of little things that get overlooked.

Being at the halfway point, I can at least go back and write in those small changes now so I won’t have to worry about them later.  I’ve made over 80 notes of chapter- or scene-specific things to be fixed in the first half of the story, and a couple dozen more notes on general continuity issues–“change  generic references made to ‘the war’ to ‘the Pirate War’ where it makes sense“; “change references on ‘Cecily’ to ‘Secily'”; “double check usage of ‘lead’ vs. ‘led'”…those kinds of things.  (It’s amazing what manages to slip between the cracks unnoticed.)

It Gets Complicated…

It goes without saying: the more details you include in a story, the more there is to manage–and I’ve got a ton of info to manage: facts, names of people (lots of those) and places, history…all that good stuff.  All of it invented, of course.  One thing that helps, as a fantasy/spec fic writer, is to keep notes on all of my worldbuilding and character details, though for the most part I’m able to remember most of what I’ve created (’cause it’s my creation!).  It’s when changes have been made that I need another tool to help me sniff out what instances in the manuscript are going to be affected by said changes.

That’s when having complete files on previous drafts and the current draft comes in handy because they can be used as references themselves.

I’ve mentioned on my blog before that I use yWriter to keep track of what’s going on in my story as far as characters and plot go.  You can add photos and track the days gone by in each scene, as well, in addition to some other useful features.  It also lets you save an HTML version of your manuscript–which I’ve found to be immensely useful.  I do keep individual Word files of each scene I write, too, and give them their own names (I don’t like to work from one huge file and prefer working initially in Word), but by also having the entire current manuscript (as it stands) kept in yWriter, which can easily be updated by way of copy/pasting from Word to yWriter, I can later search for (“Find”) specific words, phrases and references that I wish to change–which then helps me pinpoint which chapter & scene it’s in if I can’t remember.  In a way, it would be easier to just work entirely in yWriter, but like I said: I prefer to work mostly in Word.  For various reasons.

So yeah, that’s what I’m doing now is addressing my plethora of post-heavy edit notes; they’re kinda like afterthoughts.  It’s (painstaking) progress…just not progress I can show on the progress bar.

…Say, I was gonna talk about the novel I just finished reading, but maybe I’ll save that for the next time I blog!

How do you folks keep track of changes made to your stories and keep it all coherent?

Specifically novels, and during the editing stage.  Sometimes what you think is on the page and what is actually on the page are two different things…


16 thoughts on “Editing Pains

  1. “Sometimes what you think is on the page and what is actually on the page are two different things…” Hah! I know this one well. It often IS different, and I’ll only see it ages later or if it’s pointed out.

    This is a tricky one. I used a combination of saving multiple drafts of the story, as well as my story bible spreadsheet (quick scene summary + characters appearing + timeline + subplots + misc notes), and hand written pages with notes I made as I read through the novel. The notes fell into 3 categories: Major changes – that would affect the entire book (plot of entire novel, important world details that I changed, anything ), Medium changes – not quite as much work as the first category (chapters to rewrite, scenes to redo), Minor changes – quick things (changing names, removing a character in this chapter etc.). For each of the medium and minor changes, I looked through my novel bible, to see which chapters and scenes they might apply to, and referring to them while I did the last draft of the novel.

    There’s no easy way to go about it. Sounds like you’re pretty organized though! Good luck!


  2. Oof. Do I ever feel your pain, Tiyana. I am battling the editing..stuff, too. (By the way, glad to see you’re still blogging)

    I hold most of my novels in my head. I have separate word doc where I did/do my outlining. I put my world notes in there somewhat. I try to keep copies of all my beta reader feedback and pick up each chapter’s notes and work on them as I’m revising.

    The best way I’ve found to figure out what’s actually on the page is to read it aloud but that takes a long, long time in epic fantasy novels 🙂 Also, those extra pair of eyes you get from someone reading your work is so important to catch problems.

    Keep at it, Tiyana. You can do it.


    • Oh gosh, I have no idea how long it would take me to read this thing out loud…lol. I’m sure it would help, though.


      (Oh, and yup! I’ll still be around bloggin’. Likely every other week now. :D)


  3. I keep track of changes by my usual combination of obsessiveness and disorganization. 🙂

    I save every draft of everything, plus, since I mostly post as I write, WordPress tracks versions also. When stories are posted in a series of blog posts, I write a script which pulls all the episodes out of the database and combines them into a single HTML fiile, and then I save every version of those, too, plus weekly backups of the database itself. So, if I’m looking for something specific I usually have no idea where it is, but I’m sure I have it. Somewhere.

    I almost never make notes, except margin notes on printed drafts. Which are no longer printed, because I now use the Kindle I haven’t turned on my printer in weeks. 🙂

    I look forward to the blog post about the book you just read.


    • Oh yes! I remember you talking about using WordPress to post your stories before. I thought that was a good idea.

      OMG, I could not live without notes. O_O And keeping your story on a Kindle is something I’ve never heard of before. Interesting…


      • Well, a Kindle is really a (somewhat limited) computer. The features that get advertised are the ones that will make money for Amazon (Buy Books! Buy Newspapers and Magazines!), but it does other things as well.

        I load each draft on the Kindle (via email), then I go through it and make notes, then I revise on the computer and then email the new version and go around again. I like making my notes on a fixed copy (as on paper) rather than on the computer, because it gives me a chance to re-think edits before I actually make them. Sometimes a phrase bothers me at the moment, but then when I go to make the change I decide it’s okay the way it is.

        I also have an app for the Kindle which allows me to use it to write in a text file, in case ideas come to me when I’m not home.

        Oh, and on the timeline question, I find it works best for me to worry about that during edits. I agree that the times have to work (particularly important in mysteries, where readers may go back and check that the detective’s explanation actually works), but I don’t like to worry about that when I’m writing the first draft.


    • Right? 😀

      I’d probably use an infinite number of Post-Its if they were larger; my notes need a bit more space, heh. But they can be very useful! Especially when sticking them directly onto a manuscript.


  4. In the infrequent instances when I need to give the “finished” story an overhaul, somewhere (a completely rewritten beginning, or insertion of additional scenes), I’ll save the revised work in a separate document. For most smaller changes, though, I’ll keep working from the original Word doc, fiddling with it like a painter without the option to simply copy-and-paste onto a fresh canvas.
    Of course, things might be different if I tended to write 200,000-word monsters like your project, but since they’re usually a quarter of that length or shorter, simply reading through the story over and over to double-check myself is perfectly feasible, and so that’s what I do. Read to myself, read aloud to my writing buddy, uncover something else to tweak almost everytime I look.
    As for my method for tracking where the book has gone over the edits, I’ll glance back at the document that holds my outlining notes and see how I *used* to think the story would play out. Funny how far off I usually am. (:


  5. I have separate sets of notes I keep: a timeline with very quick jots about important scenes, a character set (which includes a quick biography and physical and personality description), and then a more detailed plot outline done by major story points (Hook, Plot Point 1, Pinch, etc).

    I usually keep one draft, molding and fixing it as a whole. However, if I decide to deviate in a major way but I’m not totally sure if I want to keep it that way, I will keep it a separate file.


    • A timeline would have been very useful, in my case. I just merrily ignored however many days went by in the story but then realized it’d be kind of nice to know how long everything takes, if only for a bit of plausibility/realism. So now with the first edit I’m using yWriter to keep track of time in the story and adjusting accordingly, heh. (Sometimes I think events take place in a certain amount of time, only to later realize it’d take much longer/less time.)


  6. Well, I haven’t yet edited anything as large as a novel-length work. All of my finished and fully-edited projects have been less than 13,000 words. So the methods I’ve used most recently may not be relevant on novel-length work. But what I’ve been doing is keeping track of everything in Word directly. After the rough draft, I turn Track Changes on. Then when I make edits, it maintains both the old and new versions. (Before I iterate to a new full draft, finalizing those changes, I save it as a new version, so I preserve my working history.) I also make comments about things I want to change or problems using Word’s comment feature.

    I also have kept separate Word documents for a character bio, but the outline has been in my head.

    So far… my Novel method is very different than my short-story method. I’ve got a project manager to help me out (a desktop wiki), where I’m keeping character notes and background detail and my outline. But there’s a lot of copy/paste from Word to the wiki and back. I find it easier to compose in Word. So, when I write my character bios, I write it in word, then copy/paste to my Wiki, for instance.


    • Ooo, I didn’t know you could keep track of changes in Word! LoL–I tell you, since I got Windows 7 I haven’t looked into the newer features of Word. So that’s interesting.

      Though, I do love using the comments as well. Quite helpful.

      Also, that sounds nice to have all your novel notes/info/all-that-jazz in one place. Sure that makes things more convenient!


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