My Editing Journey

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I’m writing this because I hit a distraction point in my current editing session. I get to these points where I start doing anything but editing so I figured I would try to at least make it productive.

As I’ve said before, I’m working on converting my web series into a novel. This presents some unique challenges in my editing process, but ones I thought I’d address anyway.

The Web Series

The web series is called “The Q’taxians”. This will most likely remain the overarching title to the book series, but I plan on titling the novels themselves differently.

I started writing it as a coping mechanism after a pretty rough patch and eventually decided to start posting it online as a series. This was back in 2018 when I finished the Original Run. It’s a much different story than the one I’m telling now, but I’ve come to realize that it may or may not serve as the groundwork for a future book in the series.

When I began rewriting the current version, I had two goals:

  1. I wanted each “chapter” to be comparable in time consumption to watching at least a kids cartoon or sitcom. I was aiming for a 30-45 minute read time.
  2. Create a consistent, predictable schedule that people would find easy to follow.

Point 1 lead to each chapter being around 10k+ words in length aka a novelette. These chapters would be broken down into pages and parts within their individual files, but each title was considered the title to an “episode” of the series.

My schedule was every other week so I was turning out no less than 20k words per month. I never really felt burned out, but it was a lot. What I called a “chapter” was, again, the length of a short story. In total, the series ended up being around 100k words and (as of latest compiling) over 400 weirdly spaced (half WordPress formatting, half Google Docs formatting) standard printer pages.

A group of chapters addressing the same major theme would be collected under the umbrella of an “arc”. I used the terms “episode” and “arch” to avoid literary terms such as “chapter” and “book” because at no point did I really want to turn ANY of this into a book. I wanted it to forever (there is an end) be a work in progress in creating free online content. Unfortunately, that became rather unfeasible.

There were a few times I turned back to the idea of “novelizing” it, but the idea of going over 100k+words and trying to reconfigure them into a novel rather than a series of short stories was incredibly daunting. I got to a point in writing it that I had no idea where a “Book 1” would end so I scraped the idea of books entirely. I just kept writing until I wrote myself into a corner. I ended up axing these fluff chapters resulting in 16 short stories.

Now, when I say short stories, I don’t mean short, independent plots under the same umbrella anthology. I had indented to write them in such a way that they potentially could be read independently, but it didn’t work out that way. They really were a continuous series.

I didn’t think I could reasonable fix it so I went on a spree of rewrites. I probably started at least a dozen new versions in an attempt to streamline the web series plot.

But I kept getting feedback from the web series.

I was pretty sure it was dead and no one was reading it, but that wasn’t the case. I had one consistent reader for a while, but now it seems I have at least three and their feedback was largely positive. They knew it needed work and I knew that, too, but still… I couldn’t ignore what they were saying.

I finally bit the bullet and compiled it into a Google Doc and printed out half of it before my toner ran out. It’ll be a bit before I can afford a new drum, but it got me 200+ pages to work on. They are now comfortably held in a split-ring binder that CAN hold all 400+ pages so when I get that toner in, I can have it all in one place.

I’m currently about 40 pages in total editing (paper and type-up combined) and about 54 pages in on the paper edit with a January 31st deadline from an editor.

But you’re not really here for all that. Let’s get into my editing process.

Editing

The first step was to compile and print-out the series. I CANNOT edit in a word processor. I can never find what I’m looking for and hate scrolling around trying to find different parts. That, and I do prefer scratching up pages with a red pen rather than highlighting and leaving “notes” for myself. For as efficient as they try to make editing in digital documents, it’ll probably never be as convenient as I find being able to turn pages and leave my own marks all over the pages rather than rely on the organized nature of a word processor.

This means my editing process is actually broken down into two parts:

  1. Editing the physical copy
  2. Typing it up into a word processor

Every day I sit down and go over part of the printed manuscript. Either that same day or the next, I type up whatever I edited.

Since I’m trying to alter the overall structure of the story (10k word chapters down to 3-5k words), I’m also on the lookout for natural breakpoints. I actually left myself a few good points noted in the manuscript where “pages” would have been. These have since become largely independent chapters.

I used sticker tabs to keep track of where things were. Thick tabs indicate hard-coded chapters (the original 16) while the narrow ones are used to suggest a breaking point in the longer chapters. So far this has resulted in 6 “new” chapters. I use the tabs so I can easily navigate between pages.

The result is that what was once Chapter 4 is now Chapter 10 and so on. I don’t actually know how many chapters the whole thing will be, but it’ll most likely be 30+.

As I go over the printed version, I take note of certain plot elements I knew I failed to keep track of throughout the story as well as noting any major plot changes so I know to carry them into the future of the story. I do this in a completely independent notebook so I can have the manuscript binder open and the notebook sitting next to me at all times. If something important comes up, I jot it down. So far it’s saved me a lot of going back and looking for things. I call it my “Brain Journal”.

The “Brain Journal”: a muraman (sic) Mnemosyne journal.

I felt like I was losing control of the web series largely because small elements kept slipping by me. I’d either forget them or I’d remember them incorrectly. Being able to go over it and record these elements as I go is saving me a LOT of frustration.

Another disadvantage of the web series was just its overall length. Over 100k words! I was proud of it at first, but now looking at it as though it was a novel… That seems pretty long for a first entry. I had intended to severely cut down what I had written on the pages and while I DO find myself crossing out entire paragraphs and, at one point, an entire page, I don’t foresee myself actually cutting back that much as I keep replacing what’s removed with the newer version in my head.

I’m very aware a first novel should be around 80k words and I’m very aware that overshooting it isn’t necessarily a good look, but I’m trying to make sure I remember that this is my pass on the story. I can’t look at it 100% objectively which is why I’m grateful to have someone waiting to read it at the end of January. I hope they can either help me weed it down or validate that the length is necessary. I’m not writing 100k to overachieve. That’s just how long it took me to tell the story. It could be a bit shorter if I change the end point and move some major elements into a second book, but I’m happy with where it is.

It IS being written with the intent of making it a series so the “end” isn’t actually the end. Currently, its a soft cliff hanger that opens up almost endless potential for the next book which I had already started plotting out a while ago, but that’s subject to a lot of change now.

In order to hit that January 31 deadline, I have to paper edit and type up at least six pages a day. Sometimes I exceed that and sometimes I end up doing 0. Today I paper edited 18 pages. Now I have to type them up where even more can change. Remember, these pages are a bit weirdly formatted and have some excessive spacing due to some selective carry-over from WordPress where it was all originally written.

Final Thoughts

This is the last pass I’m going to get before someone else lays a set of dedicated eyes on it. I’m doing my best to make it as good as it can be. I think my biggest problem is that I’m actually enjoying reading it. It’s not stopping me from being critical of some points and tearing out some things I actually liked, but I feel so vain saying that I genuinely like my story. I know this person might tear it down, but they do know how important it is to me so I know they’ll do it tactfully. I know they won’t yes me to death or just praise me without fault (a problem I’ve had before with friends reviewing my work). I just hope I can manage to not be so sensitive that I can’t take criticism.

I’ll make another post further into the process or when it’s all done. In the meantime, back to work!

I hope… 😅

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