From Idea to Edits

I had someone ask me recently about developing ideas and my editing process (it was the fact I write without an outline they couldn't understand) and I said I’d chronicle the process on my blog as soon as I finished the first round of edits on the novel I was working on. Well, I finished the edits, so here I am. :-)

The story I’m going to feature is my first on-line serial, which was called Space Opera. It started out being called Eye of the Beholder, and this is a glimpse of the original idea (if you click on the picture you can see a larger version):

Seriously. That was the extent of my notes on the story. I looked at a few ideas for my first serial, and I really couldn’t tell you why I chose this one. The first thing I did was change the title. The idea itself was so old I don’t have a clue why I called it Eye of the Beholder, but I changed it to Space Opera – more of a description of the kind of story it was going to be than a proper title.

The next thing I did was change the name of the main character. She started out as Claire Windsor, and I had a vague notion she was from Earth. I decided Earth was too cliché, although at this point I had no idea where she was from, and changed her name to Nakeisha. I also had no idea why she was wandering around the universe, but I decided the shootout would make a good beginning.

The next thing that had to change was the name of the ship. It was originally called the Flaming Comet, which when I came up with the idea was fine, but in this day and age it conjures up a whole different image. ;-) So the ship became the Burning Comet.

Then it became a matter of answering questions and what-iffing. Why were the crew on this planet? Why was she there? What if I set this in the same universe as a plethora of other space ideas I have and the crew of the Burning Comet are on a secret mission of some kind. What if she turns out to be part of this mission, but they don’t realize it? Why is she such an important part of the story . . .

This process took place in my head. I’m not kidding. I’d go over different scenarios in my head until I found one I liked and then keep adding to it in my mind until I knew how it was going to end.

From there I started writing my serial, one instalment each week, making it up as I went along. I didn’t come up with the idea of Nakeisha being an elemental until I gave her a last name, Windsinger. And even though it was more or less worked out in my head, it wasn’t carved in stone and there was a lot of stuff that got worked out as I went along. And there were a few twists that cropped up without warning – like the story of Kandor and Shinandu that Chaney tells Nakeisha, or the energy surge that built up between them.

Once the serial was done, I printed it out and went through it page by page making changes:

I use several different colours of metallic, gel pens – no reason, I just like the variety. :-) If it’s a minor change I’ll write on the manuscript. If it’s a major change or addition I put a number where I want it to go, then a corresponding number on my steno pad and write out whatever it is in pencil. It’s pencil for two reasons: one, I like writing in pencil and two, if I need to make a change to my change I can just erase and re-write rather than having to rewrite a whole page.

After I’ve gone through the manuscript and made the changes manually, I’ll go back to the original document file and make the changes there. After that all changes are done on the computer. I’ll only kill so many trees for the sake of my art. :-)

And that’s my process. The interesting thing is, when I’m editing for myself I have to do it this way – from a hard copy. But when I’m editing for someone else, I really prefer to do it on the computer using the track changes feature in MS Word.

Anyway, there you have it. The road an idea takes to become a complete story.


Justine Darkholme said...

This is a great post. I love reading about other people's processes. It's a really great way to compare writing methods and get ideas on how to improve your own. Man, this was an awesome post. Oh, and I loved the pictures. It's nice to know I'm not the only person out there that still writes out things long hand. -Justine

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Excellent post, I love seeing the process a writer takes when writing their work. I think I should try to edit in hard copy, it might make me more critical to see it staring me in the face :D