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Critical Hits

3,200 Changes

by Dave Smith
Apr 07,2004


3,200 Changes

A week or so ago I finished my first round of revisions for Critical Hits. I had a friend print out a hard copy, which I sat down with and read carefully with pen in hand. I caught thousands of things that needed fixing: grammar, plot holes, inconsistencies, stupid ideas, bouts of logorrhea, characters and/or ideas I completely forgot about, and so forth. I made, on average, eight changes per page, which wound up being roughly 3,200 changes. I couldn't believe it. Editing turned out to be a completely different affair than writing. I never edited Axis Mundi Sum by hand, opting to read the Word file on my computer. It was a mistake that I'll never make again, having found out how much more thorough annotating a physical chunk o' book can be.

For such a relatively short process, however, editing was tiring. Since I finished, I've barely done a single thing with Critical Hits. I only started typing up revisions two days ago, and haven't done anything else I should do, like look for publishers or agents. I don't feel any need to justify my laziness, because I see no point in pushing myself for the sake of getting things done in a short amount of time. Maybe one day, when I've got a solid book deal and therefore a deadline, I might put myself under more pressure than I currently do. Until then, I'm going to listen to my own advice and take it easy, since I'm writing for myself.

I don't have a lot of advice about the editing process, but I'll do what I can. The main thing to mention is that you'll cut out a veritable shitload of your manuscript if you pay close attention. I was appalled by how much complete tripe I included in Critical Hits (and Axis Mundi Sum, for that matter); while "tripe" is a subjective term, I'm sure all writers spew out far more words than they need, and many of the ones they intend to keep probably need to be swapped out for better ones. The main things that needed to go were unneccessary descriptions and muddled verb tenses. The former created rambling paragraphs that failed to advance the story, and- even worse- piled up useless details. The latter made me wonder when exactly certain things in the book were happening, which just isn't acceptable; as much as I enjoy long, involved sentences, Critical Hits isn't the place for them. By the time I finish typing up my revisions, I suspect that I'll have cut thirty to fifty pages from my manuscript, thereby reducing the novel's suck factor considerably.

Now that I'm typing up the second draft, I find myself re-reading everything again, despite knowing where I need to make changes. This is another bonus of having edited by hand, but it's just as slow and twice as aggravating, thanks to my ailing computer and distaste for reading off of a monitor for long periods of time. Yeah, I'm whining about it, but unless someone wants to do it for me, I'll continue to moan until I get the job finished. Then I'll take another week or two off, kick back, and contemplate more editing, though it's more likely I'll go on the Great Agent Hunt. I'll be sure to file a report about that endeavor soon enough. In the meantime, if you're a writer, use your hours at work wisely: print out your manuscripts and go over them line by line with a pen before you submit them anywhere. You might not thank me for it, but you will be grateful- especially when you make thousands of changes to a manuscript you though was good.

Until next month, check out Axis Mundi Sum, don't rush yourself, and take it easy.

Dave Smith
dave at axismundisum.com

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