Tag Archives: developmental editing

Why I Love Sandboxing

I’m coming down to the last few edits on my Work In Progress before I’ll declare this ecopunk fantasy romance manuscript about life after trauma good to go. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that I embarked upon a beta-reading journey, including a second pass that I just finished up, which really pushed my skills and this story to the next level.

Some of these final edits are aggravatingly more complicated than they look at first glance. “Give more personal details in the introductory scene” is fairly straightforward, but “clarify momentum after [particular plot point]” became a weird brain-bend where I had to subtly alter several scenes. It got easy to lose track of what I’d changed and when (though was a pleasant surprise later when I’d remember to change a section and realize I’d already done it and wow doesn’t it look nice).

When I get lost in the details, I tend to fall back on one particular method to get my head clear and let creativity run free. This is something I call “sandboxing.” I can’t remember when I first heard the term, but the gist is this:

Sandboxing: opening up a completely new document (or Scrivener page) and experimenting with the scene/chapter/what-have-you without worrying about the consequences of what you’re changing, because, well, you’re just playing around and it’s not the actual manuscript. You’re just “playing in the sand” to see what happens.

Because sometimes that intimidating blank page is actually a help.

I’ve talked a little about how I used this during my massive rewrite to re-envision scenes. The downside of it is sometimes you can forget what does need to be there, or increase the wordcount of the scene, which is especially annoying when you’re trying to get word count down.

For example, I recently took a scene in a library between my main character and another primary character, and tried to see if I could highlight some worldbuilding information while playing up the flirt. By the end I was pretty proud of myself for weaving it all together.

… only to realize a day later that I’d already meshed this worldbuilding information in another scene, and in a better way that empowers my main character and lowered the word-count a bit by replacing a superfluous scene.

Whoops. Redundant work, there.

So now it’s back to the drawing board for that library scene. The great thing is, I discovered a new way for the characters to interact that choreographs tension, which I’m going to hopefully still use no matter what details actually end up in the scene. This is a weird turning-point moment that I feel could really be more if I can just do it right, so trying to keep an open mind about where it goes.

I think this will be the last structural edit, after which I’ll do a final pass for line edits and see if I can lower my overall word count. As much as I want to go straight to querying, I should—sigh—at least do one copyediting pass. Especially considering my wordcount is still in the upper 120s and I sometimes have a passive-voice problem.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I could literally spend the rest of my life editing this book and never get it out in the world, so I’m doing my best to stay out of the “art is never finished” trap. Sandboxing is a method that unfortunately can last for as long or as little time as you want it to, so I’m thinking of giving myself deadlines so I don’t get lost in the woods of my mind again.

Tomorrow will be the 1st of March. So let’s say I have a week to figure out this “library scene.” (Maybe that seems overkill, but I am trying to be kind to myself while working full time and remodeling a house. Time is scarce and I am le tired.)

Then, the final three weeks of March to get through copyedits?

Here’s to starting up querying by April 1st, 2022, friends!

Let me know about your journey and where you’re at! I’m also really curious how long it’s taken others to get through the copyedit stage.