The madness comes from rewriting entire paragraphs and pages on each revision, because I was just not happy with the way a particular scene turned out. Too much description, not enough, etc. etc. I'd read an entire manuscript over and over, and on each pass rewrite a whole chapter.
Crazy right? Why couldn't I just get it right the first, or second, or third time around? Well, I think I figured it out...at least for me. I finished editing my second novel, and now on my third novel and I'm following a few simple rules:
- First read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. A lot of it is pretty well known trade info, but there are some things that make you say, "Ahhh, that's what bugged me about my scene."
- When editing, read every single word out loud. EVERY SINGLE WORD. I know this takes time but this is one technique that many writers bank their success on. I believe it works. Your ears provide a backup for errors your eyes miss.
- Clean your mental palate upon each revision of a chapter. Put the file away and read the news, clean your house, even watch a movie, then come back to it fresh and reread it out loud, again.
- Don't go to the next chapter until you're utterly satisfied with the current one. This means reread, out loud, until you find yourself not making any edits. I find myself rereading a single chapter at least five times in a single day. Sometimes I sleep on it, and if I like what I read in the morning then I move on.
Following these rules allowed me to revise Everett's Jubilee within 1 month. I put it away, and reread the whole thing again with almost no changes. I say almost because of those damn syntax errors. At this point, my freelance editor catches everything else. She's a word mercenary!