The Pleasure and Pain of Editing

You’ve just finished a full draft. OMG! You are amazing! The last thing you want to do is acknowledge that you’ve only begun the true work of putting a story out into the world.

Interactive Brokers War Room

“Interactive Brokers War Room” By Ɱ

Editing can be daunting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the time investment, but I find that’s not the main thing writers shy away from. For most writers, it’s a lack of understanding of how to edit. Where to start? Spellcheck? A complicated wall maze of string, post-its, and 3×5 card madness?

Here’s a process guide to get you started:

  1. Re-read the whole thing and make notes, but no changes yet
  2. Cut scenes that blot the story
    • Save the good lines
    • Work the needed info or character moments into other scenes
  3. Write scenes you need to add
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until your story is where you want it to be
  5. Read each scene, keeping in mind what that scene should be doing
    • Is it doing that?
      • Yes. Cool. Go to Step 6
      • No. Why not? Fix it and go to Step 6
  6. Edit your scenes. Make them work harder!
    • Is this a fight scene? Great, but…
      • Could it also be a romantic scene where the characters’ true feelings are laid bare?
      • Could it also introduce a new threat or foreshadow a tragic end?
  7. Ignoring all content issues, do a proofread. Look for:
    • Typos
    • Grammar
    • Spelling
    • Usage
    • Overly used words
    • Consistency of spelling of made up names/words
    • Spacing issues (after a period one space or two?)
    • Punctuation
    • Fancy fonts – don’t. Unless you are self-publishing and even then, check industry conventions and try to hue to their guidelines. Your readers will thank you. Don’t make the visual presentation of your story the most interesting thing about it. If you want to do fancy fonts, write a graphic novel.
  8. Let it go. You’ve done all you can.

    Let It Go

    from Disney’s “Frozen”

Have someone else edit it, such as a trusted fellow writer, or pay a pro to edit it. You will frustrate yourself re-editing the same story over and over.

What did I miss? What’s your process?

5 thoughts on “The Pleasure and Pain of Editing

  1. As far as the “one space or two after a period” question goes — I finally understand why my very first editor told me to ditch the extra spaces. Why? She said it had to do with the spacing that printing presses of old used for various sized letters. Now with everything modern, two spaces after a period are no longer necessary. At first I balked at her advice, but now it’s easy to use just one space. I guess I allowed myself to change! 🙂


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