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Self-Editing: Second Pass

A while ago, I talked about how I scoured the Internet for tips on self-editing a novel and concluded that three passes made sense. Today I’m back to share a checklist for revisions. (See the first pass here.)

Tomorrow, I’ll send the first five chapters of The Ageless off to my beta readers, which means I’ve already done most of the second and third passes on those chapters. I’ll talk more about the third pass in March.

The Purpose of Dividing Self-Editing Into Passes

As a copyeditor in my day job, I’ll be the first to admit that no one can truly self-edit. You’ll need outside eyes to spot all the errors your brain skipped. Dividing your editing into three passes can help you focus and avoid missing obvious things. (Though you’ll still need actual editors, of course.)

Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to polish up your prose on the sentence- and word-level when you haven’t finished slicing and dicing the scenes and chapters yet. During my first pass, I deleted at least three chapters, rewrote several chapters from scratch, and even added a few new ones. Polishing the prose on any of those beforehand would’ve been a huge waste of time.

So the first pass was for major story arcs, story structure, escalating tension, character development, etc.

That’s my revision board to the right. I do big revisions on the computer, and most of my notes are also on the computer. But sometimes, I have to think in ink.

Revising a Novel: Second Pass

Every writer is different, so what I’ve listed here may be part of your first pass or thirteenth pass. But if you’re trying to find a place to start, this may help. For me, there was some slight overlap between Pass 1 and Pass 2.

  • Setting:
    • Establish where and when at the beginning of the scene
    • Add refreshers throughout so the setting doesn’t fade
    • Portray setting from the character’s POV
  • Sensory details:
    • Help your reader experience the scene
    • Try to use at least three senses
  • Dialogue:
    • Read dialogue out loud
    • Make it unique to the character with diction, cadence, etc.
  • Internal voice: Match internal monologue to their dialogue style
  • Character:
    • Realism: Is this really what this char would do?
    • Realism: Does this seem out of char?
    • Development: Their arc should continue compared to past/future scenes
    • Voice: Their voice should be unique
  • Style: The narrative style should change depending on POV char
  • Viewpoint:
    • Establish viewpoint character in first line of scene
    • If third person, avoid sliding between limited and omniscient
    • Watch for POV violations (viewpoint character knowing another character’s motivation)
  • Emotion:
    • Show emotions through actions
    • Make motivations clearer through emotions
  • Foreshadowing: Add where necessary to support later events
  • Repetition: Avoid saying the same thing multiple ways or times on the word, sentence, and paragraph levels
  • Metaphors:
    • They have to match, noun and verb
    • Example: A ball doesn’t bloom, so a “ball of fear blooming in his chest” doesn’t work
  • Consistency of story terminology
    • Example: Changeling vs. transmelder
    • Example: Unstained vs. Purebreed
  • Exposition:
    • Overload: Is all this info necessary right now?
    • Consider trimming down or cutting internal monologue
    • Show, don’t tell (but don’t go overboard)
    • Tell when it makes more sense than showing
    • Eliminate exposition in the middle of the action — there’s no time!
  • Tone: At the end of the scene, ask yourself if it invoked the right emotions in the reader

The examples above are from early drafts of The Ageless. The checklist itself is inspired by suggestions I found on the sites below, my own hurdles (problems that kept cropping up), and feedback from my wonderful critique partners on what I should improve. For example, I often added way too much internal monologue during fight scenes, which would slow down the action.

Along the way, I’ve learned that writing the novel is quite possibly the easiest part. Revisions take time. I toiled over the first pass for an entire year, which you can always see on my writing calendar. I’m hoping future books will go a lot quicker!

Resources for Revising a Novel

Are you in the throes of editing a novel? Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for writers of science fiction and fantasy to hang out.

Treat It Like a Business

Oftentimes, you hear the writing advice, “Treat it like a business.” When authors say that, most of the time what they mean is you have to write even when you don’t feel like it. Which is true. As E.B. White once put it, “a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

But sometimes, people go a little bit overboard. They interpret it as, “Thou must write every day to be a real writer!” and take it to extremes.


Sometimes, Even Dedicated Writers Need a Break

Traci and Dorian at the Academy of Science

Traci and Dorian at the Academy of Science

I’ve just returned from a six-week writing hiatus. Zealots of the “treat it like a business” concept might scoff. “I write even when I’m sick,” they’d say.

I’ve heard numerous successful authors say they write even when under the weather, and they can’t tell the difference between what they write while sick vs. while feeling well.

But does that mean we should never take a break? NaNoWriMo encourages people to write every day, after all.


Continue reading

Six-Month Checkup: 2013 Edition

Six-Month Checkup: 2013 Edition

Checking in about my writing progress on The Ageless, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Earth’s future with fantasy elements. I’m a month late on this post, but there’s a good reason!

I’m getting married to a certain fellow named +David Dorian Granruth in October. How do I feel about this? Although writing is still a priority, planning our kickass steampunk wedding and awesome honeymoon takes precedence, of course!

Writing Frequency

Success! (Mostly.)

My plan was to write 4 times a week except around certain holidays and vacation. Up through May, I continued to do so. Then I came down with a really bad sinus infection just before a trip home. For a couple weeks after that, I fell to 3 times a week before returning to 4 times a week.

Three months before the wedding, I dropped back to 3 times a week. Hoping I can keep this up a little longer. The closer we are, the harder it is to juggle everything. I may go down to 2. And of course, during the honeymoon, I’ll just be enjoying myself!

After October, I plan to hop back in to 4 times a week. Let’s see if I can achieve that goal!

Finish The Century 


My plan was to finish the first draft of The Century by March. I managed to pull that off just barely, although I still had a few pre-chapter blurbs left over to write. I left myself a few revision notes at the beginning of March and moved on.

How to Publish


I wanted to come to a decision about how to publish both standalone novels by the end of this year, which I’ve done. My idea is to start with self-publishing (after extensive revisions, cover design, editing, and proofreading of course).

With later books, I may sell rights to a small or large publishing house. Later still, I may continue on as a hybrid, publishing in both arenas. Find full details and an explanation as to my reasoning on My Publishing Path.

I also started a short list of who I’d like to beta read The Ageless. If you’re interested, contact me by sending me a private post on Google+ at +Traci Loudin.

Review The Ageless

Complete! Much later than I expected… You can see how I progressed on my Current Projects page.

Once I learned more about self-editing, I realized I needed to carefully review each scene of the novel before making revisions. In some cases, scenes needed immediate triage.

Complicating things, I joined a critique group too early. The group seems to be geared more towards beta reading moreso than alpha reading, so there were lots of hang-ups and false starts. I ended up spending a lot of time revising early scenes before having the clarity of later scenes.

As of today, I’ve reviewed the entire novel and am ready to make my first attempt at a full second draft. It took five whole months of scene audits to reach this point, so that’ll be good to keep in mind for future self-editing.

I’ll estimate 5 full months to complete the second draft, but now that I’m under 4 times a week, it’ll naturally take even longer. Let’s make it a goal to have the second draft of The Ageless complete by February, shall we?

Engage Online


One of my goals for 2013 was to engage more on Goodreads, but if anything I’ve become more of a recluse, both online and off. Hopefully this will change after October.

I found some amazing co-moderators to help me with the Speculative Fiction Writers community on Google+. Unfortunately, with the wedding planning, I haven’t been able to participate as much as I had been. Since January, the group has gained 1,100 members.

Read More

Fail in progress.

My goal was to read 20 genre books and a few outside the speculative fiction genre. I’ve certainly fallen behind on this.

Goodreads says I’m doing well, but Serenity, The Emperor’s Soul, and Legion aren’t full-length books. I never actually finished The Lab or Gardens of the Moon, as neither of them kept my interest. The World Without Us was interesting, but I tend not to read “non-fiction” straight through, so I marked this complete without reading the whole thing.

So by my count, I’ve only read 7! Hoping to catch up after the honeymoon, but I doubt I’ll reach my goal.

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Traci has
read 13 books toward her goal of 25 books.

SciFi Conventions


Part of my goals were to talk to more people at cons. Did I actually do this? Yes and no. I talked more to people I actually knew, but still didn’t really go out on a limb and talk to anyone new.

As for 2014, so far we’re planning on MystiCon (where my friend Donnie is a guest!), ConCarolinas, and Dragon*Con. I don’t think I can afford a World Fantasy Con in the same year as a Dragon*Con… Though it is in Virginia next year…

If you have any recommendations on fun science fiction conventions to attend, let me know! Leave a comment below or find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for fans of science fiction and fantasy to hang out.

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