Editing. The point after you’ve finished creating your manuscript when you revisit your writing to see how much more work you really have to do. Editing is taking your rough sketch, drawing in the final lines, and adding color to turn it into a masterpiece. Editing is where the magic happens in writing.
When I did NanoWriMo 2015 (see post about my experience next month), I read from seasoned participants, that you shouldn’t take the time to edit while you’re writing your way through the month. The goal is to write 50,000 words during November and if you stopped to edit right and left, you’d never reach the word count goal. So, I did as the other participants had suggested: I kept writing.
I zoomed through the month, leaving behind areas that I’d need to go back and fill in later. If a spot needed a bit of research, I left a _____ space. When it was time to sit down with my fledgling manuscript and dive into editing, that is when the researching, polishing, and filling in the blanks would take place.
I always suggest waiting at least a month after you finish the first draft of your manuscript, before you begin editing. Don’t even look at it during that time. Put it aside and work on something else. It’s been several months since NanoWriMo, and I’m just now starting to get back to my manuscript to start the editing.
This break gives your brain time to forget the specifics and details of the story. When you sit down to look at your manuscript again, you don’t want your mind filling in the gaps. You want to look at your writing as though you’ve never seen it before. The only way that can happen is to put a bit of time in between the writing and the editing portions of the process.
Editing is approached differently by every writer you ask. If you aren’t participating in NanoWriMo and your days aren’t so intense, you may do a bit of editing as you go. That way, when you begin the second draft later on, you will hopefully have a bit less to do for draft two. At the very least, you would have already caught and fixed a few things along the way.
Some writers like to print out their first drafts, so they can go through it with their trusty red pen. Yes, the same red pen teachers always used to mark up our papers with in school. Others, like to edit on the computer. This ensures that you only have to make the corrections once.
However you progress through the editing stage, here are a few of my personal suggestions to keep in mind while you read and re-read your manuscript:
- Look for your “crutch” words: those that you have a habit of using a lot. See if you can use other words to say the same thing.
- Read through the book, reading dialogue only. See if the flow of the words makes sense. This clears away what the characters are physically doing in the scene and allows you to just focus on what’s being said. You’d be surprised how easy it is to see the gaps this way.
- Look for areas where you use the same word multiple times within just a few sentences. I have a habit of doing this one. Sometimes it takes me two and three times looking at a paragraph to realize and correct my repetition.
- Maintain consistency. What I mean is, if you have a character who has a lot of internal dialogue going through their heads, decide how you want this to be formatted (italics, quotes, etc.), and stick to that formatting throughout the entire book. Grammar Girl has a great post on the subject if you are interested.
- Use the “search this document” and “find and replace” features. If you are like me and you leave a lot of ______’s behind that you want to go back to fill in later, do a “search this document” function, so that you make sure not to miss any. This is also a great tool to use during editing because it allows you to “find and replace” as well. If you decided to change a character’s name part way through the book, you can find and replace the old name rather than hoping to catch them all during the read-through.
- Save each new draft separately. If you end up cutting out scenes you loved, but didn’t work as well as you’d hoped, you can always use them later on, after the book is published, as fan fiction for a blog post (just a thought).
Editing is a process that often takes longer to complete, than it took to write the book. Many writers enjoy this stage of the process the best. Others hate it. It, as with most things, depends on who you ask.
Whether you love or hate editing, be patient with it. This is the time to polish your manuscript and make it shine.
How do you edit? Do you enjoy the editing stage of writing?