How To Edit A Multi-Part Book

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Canada Day by Emperor X)

Well, I’m back to writing again, and it feels wonderful.

I finished Part 2 of my three-part novel a while back and gave myself a weekend to rest and not so much as look at things before I went back to it. But then I came to a bit of a strange place where I had Part 1 and Part 2 written and at various stages of editing – Part 1 much farther along than Part 2 – but not Part 3. It left me at a loss for what to do next – start writing Part 3 or go back and edit one of the other parts?

If you’ll recall from a while ago, I wrote a post about how I like to go about writing and editing a novel. (Actually, I just looked up how long ago I wrote it, and I don’t think most of you were around this blog when it came out, so take a look.) But anyway, the TL;DR is that I like three drafts – a first sprint where I get everything out on page without editing at all and without most alpha-reader feedback; a second draft that’s much longer and more meticulous and looks to clear up big plot holes, major rewrites, and add entire new sections; and a third draft of moderate effort in which most of the line editing is done and the nuances are evaluated.

This is great when you’re not writing a novel in parts. So what do you do if it is in parts, like mine?

Well, when I got to the end of Part 1, I didn’t jump right into Part 2 – instead, ignoring my old advice, I edited Part 1 into a workable second draft and then released that to my alphas. I was thinking that, by the time they finished reading through Part 1, I would have Part 2 ready for them, and that if I released it in manageable chunks, more of them would read it – and surprisingly enough, all of this was true.

Isn’t it weird when I get things right?

But anyway, I gave them Part 1 while I worked on Part 2, and at the end I came to the same conclusion – that I should edit Part 2 into a workable second draft before starting to write Part 3. But I knew I was crossing my old rule about not looking at my novel for two months after writing the first draft, so I compromised – I would work on perfecting Part 1, then the second-draft edits for Part 2, and then I would write Part 3.

It was a bad idea. I sensed myself losing hella momentum, barely able to so much as look at Part 1, which had been covered in edits both by myself and my lovely alpha readers, and I didn’t want to move onto Part 2, which I had just wrote. So instead I just stopped writing for a week or so.

DID YOU HEAR ME? I STOPPED WRITING. THAT’S DEATH.

So I dialed it back and took a look at what I’ve learned – and what I’ve learned is that, whether I like it or not, I need the entire first draft finished before I can move on to the second draft. If I lose momentum, this project goes dead in the water, doomed to the fate of two other series in which I got two books in and stopped before writing the third. I really like this project, and I don’t want to see it die.

So I’m giving in to the urge and writing Part 3. And I have to say, having written just the interlude chapter between Parts 2 and 3 today, I think this is the perfect thing for me to do. All of the plot seeds I’ve sown over the first two parts are now finally being harvested, and all of the characters are going through intense phases of their arcs as the story leads up to the climax. It’s rejuvenating my interest in my project and making me feel more excited overall.

And as long as I’m listening to my more knowledgeable, level-headed previous self, I’m going to do the unthinkable and when I’m finished with Part 3, I’m gonna put the project down. I’ll wait my mandatory two month minimum before picking it up again, and even if I lose alpha reader interest because of it, I know it will make my project better overall.

And in the end, isn’t that the most important thing?

Yours, dabbing like Squidward,

-R.R. Buck

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