I used to do software development.
I did full life-cycle development, which is a fancy way of saying I was responsible for every aspect of the project from requirements-gathering to implementation and even user training and documentation. Exciting, isn't it?
The cool thing for me, which I've said here before, is almost every piece of this process correlates to writing.
- Requirements gathering = Coming up with the initial idea for a story
- Statement of Work = Pitch or query
- Design = Outlining
- Development = Writing
- Testing = Editing
- User testing = Review by beta readers
- Implementation = Getting it published
Are you still there?
What I want to talk about here is testing/editing. Basically there are three ways to test: detailed testing of individual units, testing one unit against the others, and user testing.
Testing is done very systematically, often with a test plan or a checklist. You have to be sure everything, every little thing - every button click, every function call, every page return - works every time on every page without exception.
Testing a unit is analogous to testing a chapter. Each chapter has to be grammatically flawless. It needs to stand on its own as if it were a short story with a beginning, middle, and end. The chapter has to do something - it needs to have a function and achieve that functionality by the end. If not, you don't need it. If a part of it doesn't serve a function, you don't need it. It slows things down.
Testing each unit against the next (integration testing - sorry, I couldn't not give it a name) for a novel involves comparing one chapter against the next to make sure there's consistency in details and characterization and voice from one chapter to the next. When you put all the chapters together, there should be those ups and downs, tension, characters development (or lack of for some characters), and a bunch of stuff I probably don't know about yet since I'm kind of new to this.
User testing is having other people give feedback at the chapter level and for the novel as a whole. When we do user testing for software, we always have people that would be actual users of the application to do the testing. If the program is being developed for accountants, we ask accountants to test it. One mistake I made with beta readers is I didn't ask my readers if they liked my genre before they started reading. If they don't enjoy the genre, they won't get the book. No kidding, right?
My point, in case anyone is still reading, is that I think it's a good idea to be very systematic when editing, to take one thing at a time, to break it into chunks to make it manageable and ensure you're being thorough even when editing only one chapter. I'm suggesting that if you're wired this way - if you find pleasure in attacking things in a systematic way - this software testing process should work for editing a novel in theory.
But maybe this only works for the type-A nerds among us. I'm not the only one, am I?
I could keep going on about error logs and issue tracking, but I won't.
BTW, my nerd-husband read this and told me this is in fact a nerd post. Sorry about that.
Honestly, did you read this? Or did you read the first three lines and then jump to this question at the end?