Photo credit: S1ON via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

A to Z Challenge: E is for Editing

Photo credit: S1ON via Foter.com / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: S1ON via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

EEditing. 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.

Photo credit: cellar_door_films via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: cellar_door_films via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?

Photo credit: whatsthatpicture via Foter.com / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: whatsthatpicture via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

21 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: E is for Editing”

  1. Interesting read! As someone who loves to read this makes me appreciate all the behind the scenes work that goes into a published book.

    1. It takes such a long time to go from concept to publication, that years can go by before a writer’s words are viewable in print. Editing takes up a lot of that time :)

  2. It’s so awesome to find another yarn-crafter who is also a writer! I love to write–poetry, fiction, short stories, and lately, children’s stories. I don’t have your wonderful illustrative talents, though. I am thinking about taking an art class to try and remedy this however, as I know the creativity is there, I just need to tap into it with some direction, lol. I would love to be able to write and illustrate my own children’s books, for publication (I think that’s any writer’s goal) but if not, I’d be happy even just making them for my own children to enjoy.

    1. It is so nice to connect with you as well. I’m not sure how many of us writers are also crafters, but I’m hoping those that just do one or the other (writing or crafting) will still find interest in the posts from the other vein. I know I love to read about all things creative and writerly. Writing and illustrating my own children’s books has been a dream of mine as well, and time permitting, I will be doing this as soon as possible. Good luck with your art class! You’re right, if you are creative, it is just a matter of tapping into a different part of yourself to draw those ideas on paper.

    1. It certainly isn’t my favorite part, but it is essential to completing a well put together book, so alas, we must push through to find the good parts of the story and hone those to perfection. Thank you for stopping by, Francis! I’ve meandered over to your blog as well :)

  3. I find myself using a slightly different editing method for every project. However, those crutch words are a killer. No sooner do I train myself not to use a word (like was) and I’ll pick up another word that’s just as bad. Great A to Z post, I’ll be back.

    Robin @ Write On Sisters

    1. That’s exactly how it goes with crutch words. They are our safety blankets. It is hard to see these words ourselves, and even more difficult to stop using them. The fact that you know what your’s are, is the first step in using a different word instead. Thank you for visiting! I look forward to seeing you back here in the future.

    1. Reading aloud always tells you where the stumbling parts are. Those parts where your words need to be adjusted just a tad so that the flow is easier to read. It was a huge help for me as I edited my own manuscript.

    2. To participate in NanoWriMo, you sign up prior to November 1st on their website, and when the the month starts, your goal is to write about 1,667 words per day in order to reach the monthly goal of 50,000 words. You can track your progress as well, to help you keep track of where you are compared to everyone else participating. It was a lot of fun; you should try it out this year!

  4. Thanks for the tips on editing, I’m going to file them away for when I get there. The one piece of advice that struck me was about not editing during NaNoWriMo and using ____’s. I get stuck so often in editing while writing. I hope to do NaNoWriMo this year and I’m going to keep these in mind. :)
    @freya3377 from Life as Freya

    1. Writing would become a snail’s pace for me, if I stopped every time I needed to do research. NanoWriMo helped me realize that I needed to stop trying to edit too much as I go and just get my thoughts out on paper. It isn’t always easy to get back into the swing of writing if you are breaking your train of thought to edit or research every few pages. Thank you again for stopping by, Freya!

  5. Hi there. Great post. I certainly spend much more time editing than I do writing. I often forget to put in description – I think it’s because I can see it all really clearly and forget I need to tell my readers what I can see!
    There have been quite a few E is for Editing and I’ve picked up tips from all of them. Thanks for sharing.
    Amanda (stopping by from http://www.amandafleet.co.uk)

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Amanda! I have seen several posts on Editing as well, but I’ve noticed, we all say something a little different. This just means even more tips for everyone! Description is tough: you don’t want to give too much and bore your audience; or not enough, leaving them confused as to where your character is or what’s happening to them. A very difficult balance to find sometimes.

  6. Your spot on to wait a while before editing your story. You do need to refresh time. Besides you may find that you describe some situations better later in the story, or that some things don’t matter as much.

    Great tips!

    1. Thank you, Chris! Sometimes, I change things around a bit later on in the story, that I know I’ll need to go back to fix in the earlier chapters during editing. Unless it’s a quick fix, I don’t tend to stop the flow of my story to fix them right there. I notate them down, and go back in later to make the adjustments. It also gives me time to make sure this is really the direction I want to go in before I’ve adjusted everything else accordingly.

    1. You’re welcome, Sheila! It is tough not to want to fix things as we go. If they are quick fixes, I say go for it. If the fix will take reworking entire chapters, I like to leave those until the end. Sometimes they will change again before I have them just as I want them. Writing is a progress that changes and shifts as we create. It doesn’t always stay on the path we’ve set for it.

  7. Excellent editing tips. I have the same crutch word problem and I don’t always find them on the first run through. I do a search for the words I know are my crutch words and then I try and get another person, if I can help me look for some of the the words I know I am really bad about repeating. I write my novel in scrivener so everything is saved in the binder. Every time I revise a scene I take a snapshot of the scene so I can go back to the scene as it was, if I don’t like the revised version. Thanks for sharing your editing tips. It’s a process. I go through once searching for plot holes then for character problems, then for problems with tension and stakes and finally a run through for dialogue only. I use a sort of modified version of Susan Denard’s Revision Process combined with Holly Lisle’s. They are both very detailed revision oriented authors who know how to break the process down so it is not too overwhelming.

    Melissa Sugar
    http://melissasugarwrites.com

    1. Thank you so much for the great comment! I am using Scrivener for the first time, and just started editing when I realized, I hadn’t taken a snapshot to save a draft of my previous work! I will have to rectify that situation as soon as I sit down to edit again. Having other people read your book is always a good idea. There are just certain things we are blind to in our own writing that others can pick out immediately.

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