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A wool-carding draft

So! In November I finished a major edit of Secret Book #5.

Here is how I do it – or how I did it this time. As of the end of October, it had been about six weeks since I looked at this manuscript, which meant I was able to read it and at least TRY to see what’s really on the page, instead of seeing what I intended to put there. This is of course more or less impossible, but time helps. So does printing the manuscript and spiral binding it so that reading it is as much like reading a book as possible. And of course nothing helps more than an actual editor. Thank God for them.

So. I spend some time with the edit letter and some time with my own notes to myself. Then I made an edit plan: I work at the level of scenes and chapters (and occasionally paragraphs), moving things around, deleting things and adding things, to create better pacing and to bring the right elements of the story to the fore.

Sometimes during a structural edit I find it helpful to put scenes on index cards. I put color coded notes on them – what’s happening plotwise, what I need for set up, and what the emotional payoff is, for example. Or I follow one arc in blue and one in green. Having it laid out on index cards lets me see structural problems and find structural solutions. Plotting does not come naturally to me so this one way I compensate.

The structural edit was a big piece of work, that took three solid weeks.

Then I did a wool-carding draft. My friend Susan Fish (she edits for hire y’all) introduced me to this term, which I think she invented. When you card wool you take a mass of tangled fibers and draw a comb gently through them, again and again and again. No one pass has to straighten out everything, but multiple gentle passes slowly create strength and order, and make the wool ready to spin.

I use the wool-carding draft to deepen themes, develop characters, and heighten emotions. I might do one focused just on the sibling relationship, or just on one particular secondary character, or just on theme X, or so on. These take about a day each, especially if you do them right after a structural edit and you know exactly where everything is.

Once the structure is solid and the wool is carded I do a “spinning draft” – another print of the manuscript and read to make sure I didn’t break anything. There are inevitably scenes I’ve cut and forgotten to put back, or put in two places, or put in the right place but now they all go through the door twice or whathaveyou.

Still to come are line edits -- an actual industry term, not another of my oddball ones -- where the editor helps you polish up your manuscript sentence by sentence, line by line, paragraph by paragraph. I’ve never really had a line edit before and I’m looking forward to it.

Anyway, wool carding is my new favorite writing metaphor, and I hope it helps someone out there as much as it helped me.

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