Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Feeding the Hag

Self-editing is why my former editor Raven called "Feeding the Hag Within." That hag
is a nagging bitch, but she must be fed her dose of your blood and sweat.

I have a stepped system for keeping my hag fed. Use it or not, as pleases you.

1. Write a chapter. Puke it out, and don't fret too much at first. Okay, use
Word to correct the spelling and easy stuff as you go, but just get the words
out of your head and on "paper."

2. Now, go back and do a little self-edit. Use Word's spell/grammar check at minimum. Don't be too harsh. It's not worth it at this level. If your crit partners have certain pet peeves, make a game of it to fix them. I have a POV maven, a hook specialist, and a "repetitive word" wizard among my crit partners, bless their meticulous souls.

3. Send to the crit partners. Print one hard copy and make all the suggested changes on it. Decide what you like and what you don't. I've had a crit partner suggest removing a character entirely from the story before, and I refused. I had plans for her, but she needed to be introduced early before she was necessary to the plot. Then again, another crit partner slashed the hell out of my first chapter, telling me it was unnecessary backstory. She was right. Take what you can use.

4. Make the changes to the draft on your computer all at once. Now is the time to let the Hag rampage. Find all the passive voice, POV issues, and anything else the crit partners didn't find. (HAH! Good crit partners find them for you and spare your head the strain, 99% of the time.) Check for balance between dialogue, emotion, introspection, conflict, and settings. All those things that feed the inner Hag in a happy gorge.

Note: After Step 4, if you have Test Readers, now is the time to use them. Create one master document, insert page numbers, and send to the readers. This will not be the document you send in, but it makes it easier for the Test Reader to have one doc.

5. When the story is done and all the chapters have been bundled together, you feed the Hag one last time. Read through for consistency of names, etc. Give yourself a deadline, and stick to it, or you'll overfeed the Hag and freeze. The greedy bitch will eat you alive if you let her.

6. Now, send to your editor so she can feed her Hag. That's her job. Let her do it. No draft is ever perfect. If you've done your best to send in a clean, professionally formatted copy free of spelling and grammatical errors, then you have done your job. Now let your editor do hers.

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