Editing That Action

This weekend is being spent editing.  I have a work-in-process on its second round of revisions with a deadline looming.  I also have first round edits on my June release due soon.  Keeping my head in two books at once is trying, especially for those action scenes.

I’ve found two specific areas where I tend to go astray when working in multiple books.  Timeline and character details.  Scene by scene I am able to write and edit without difficulty.  For example, I realized on the billionth reread of my WIP that, in the final climax scene, I forgot that it was nighttime.


Now I have to go back and figure out how my heroine does what she does in the freaking dark. It matters. It really matters. High action scenes are tight to keep the pace flowing. Not a lot of room for description here. Instead, action is built around the setting, which is wrong. Ahhhhh!

At the same time, I’m working on edits for my next release when I discover that once again, I’ve slipped in the time of day.  Thank goodness I have an excellent editor to point out that my heroine is commenting on the sunset which occurred more than an hour ago.  Big mental smack for me. And the most annoying factor?  I distinctly remember looking up the sunset times for Maine in December.

So what does a slightly OCD writer do? I create a chapter by chapter timeline as I read thru my editor’s comments. This way, I can be sure I have the time of day correct not just in the current scene, but from scene to scene as well.  It’s the time between the scenes and chapters that are slipping through the cracks as I move back and forth between books. Live and learn.

The second major issue was character details, especially those secondary characters. I wrote the June release a long while ago. What do those people look like anyway? I found the original note cards that I kept while I wrote the book (told you I was OCD), but flipping through the stack repeatedly got annoying. Fast.

I know some writers who fill out details character sheets for every person that appears in their books.  Then I’d be flipping through pages or files while I edit. Instead, I’ve put together a quick spreadsheet to keep track of basic physical descriptions and anything special about each character. This way, I have one sheet on hand that contains all those really important details. It’s become very handy as I move back and forth between projects.

Since I’m recently published, I’m fairly new at the whole juggling projects thing. Do you have any tips to help writers stay on track when working in two or more books simultaneously?

8 responses to “Editing That Action

  1. EECK! I’m one of those authors who does fill out a character sheet that I came up with to help me stay organized. I also find a photo of a person on the web or magazine that might resemble them and tape it to the page. I keep them all in a file that is easy to take on the go since I have four teenage boys who keep us going. If I don’t keep these files, and I do work on two projects, I will get eye color mixed up. The simplest thing…..sigh..

  2. Tonya, I think they’re a great idea. I’m just too lazy to lug all that around with me. Kudos to you.

  3. I love the idea of a scene by scene timeline. great idea. thanks

  4. I’m going to try Scrivener for my next book and see if I can note the timeline on the virtual note cards. It would be great to have the timeline data within the doc.

  5. Melinda, great post. I also create a table with character details and add to it as I go along (or during a first draft edit). And timelines are the bane of my life. They have tripped me up even though I try really hard to remember when day is night and night is day LOL. I spend a lot of time checking historical details that also have to fit in correctly with ages etc., which is fine until you realize there’s a big gap between when you wrote it and it gets pubbed! 🙂 It’s all in the details 🙂

  6. I keep a master spreadsheet for every book and FINALLY started recording hair and eye color, but STILL found that in my current WIP I kept changing the heroine’s eyes. LOL

    The problem with keeping track of time passing is that it takes us a lot longer to write than it does to read. So I’ll write a couple of characters eating breakfast and talking, and when I go back days or weeks later or whatever, I find that they gobbled everything up in about two minutes. LOL

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