Long time since posting, because I'm applying the principles! Last weekend was a workshop at Mount Wachusett Community College, where some very interesting notions came up, and currently I am editing the galley proofs of the book I keep talking about (Motivate Your Writing!). The two came together in one question at the conference: "how do you keep yourself going during editing?"
A good question--because the principles are different from tracking your writing.
When tracking your writing (and I want to do a post on the many different ways to do that, too), you are generally watching growth. Editing is more complex. Some writers over-write, so editing is a process of shrinking the text length. Others sketch out their story, so editing may cause them to expand sections. Many wind up doing both--cutting out portions that don't work, substituting new ones, etc. My wife Toni's (www.tonilpkelner.com) first novel wound up getting shifted from third person to first person, and changed the murderer as well, which necessitated significant changes in the plot, events, and some characters, as you might guess!
I see two main perils of the editing/rewriting phase: Giving up, and never giving up.
1. Giving up. Possibly because it's too frustrating, overwhelming, or boring. Mystery writer Philip R. Craig had ten unpublished novels because each would get rejected with recommendations for changes, but the thought of retyping those changes was so awful he just started a new novel. Getting a computer changed that for him, but it can be intimidating to think of going through every page.
2. Never giving up. Possibly because you don't know when to quit. I'll track down the reference later (it's in the book), but "it takes two people to make a masterpiece. One to do it, and one to stand behind the artist with a hammer to hit him when it's finished." Tolkien only published the Silmarillion because he died!
So how do you keep yourself going if you want to give up? Suggestions are welcome, but here are a few:
1. Start at the beginning, go in order, tracking pages. I'm using this on my galleys, which is also a way to make sure I haven't missed any typos
Some people start at the beginning and just track how many manuscript pages they have covered (if you print things out). This doesn't work so well on the computer. I'm using this method for my galley proofing and measuring the percentage; I have 228 pages total, and I have covered 20%, or about 45 pages.
2. Another way is to go by chapters or other natural breaks. Some chapters may be shorter than others, but that's okay. If you are the kind of person who hates editing, you might want to stop in the middle of an exciting section or a section you like, to bring yourself back naturally. Then the progress is: edit until you are enjoying yourself too much to stop--then stop!
I think this might be long enough for now; I'll add more later...