is for edit. edit, edit, and edit again. We as writers, are all aiming for one thing when we edit our work; excellence. Okay, we may not reach that elusive goal, but we owe it to ourselves, and our readers, to strive for it.
My method isn’t going to suit everybody, but it works for me. Consider the document referred to in the following guide to be a short story.
1. I write the entire document, from beginning to end as rapidly as possible, including excessive imagery, excess adjectives, bad grammar and scant regard for punctuation. I must get the idea out of my head onto the screen (or paper).
2. I spend a little time afterwards, reading it through to see if I’ve got the best intro. In the majority of cases, the ‘intro’ is somewhere later within the story, just waiting for me to discover it. The intro must have action, and I aim to have a hook within the first 30 words.
3. I save the document, and ignore it for a few days.
4. I open it again and read it through, and then deal with the excess elements, including words or whole sentences, that are not taking the story forward.
5. I print it out, then read it aloud and edit with a red pen.
6. Using the red pen edit, I amend the document on screen, save it, and leave it.
7. I wait at least a couple of days, or longer if possible and then get it out again, but this time, I do a diagnostic check with my punctuation and grammar programme.
8. I read it aloud, and if I’m happy with it, I publish it.
9. If it’s a competition entry, I double-check the Rules of Entry. I check that I’ve met all the criteria; word count, spacing, cover page, personal details, closing date, and so on.
10. I send the completed document / entry fee and get on with another project.
Novel writing is a different discipline.
I adapt my editing techniques to work on individual chapters of my novels. As a rule, I completely re-write my novels at least five times. Less than five drafts before publishing a novel equals laziness, and a lack of respect for the reader. The longer break that can be left between drafts, the better the end product will be. What the F … ? You’ll find out tomorrow.
23 thoughts on “E … is for edit.”
You have a very thorough and organised approach to editing, and I’m with you on how important the process is. I would say I spend more time editing than on the actual writing. My problem is knowing when to stop! I agree with you that the effort is worth it, at the very least out of respect for readers; if someone is prepared to invest their time (and,perhaps, money) reading what you’ve written, they deserve to read the best you can give.I’m with you all the way!
Thank you for dropping by and leaving your thoughts Julia. Yes, when it comes down to it, we’ve got to have the confidence that we’re selling a decent product. It deserves to be as good as we can make it.
Each book is also an investment against any other we’ve written. I’ve already seen that by sales of one book following the sales of the other.
Thank you for that Julia. Yes, when I’m tired and thinking that I’ve ha enough, it brings me to earth when I consider somebody reading my efforts. I really think we should all be working like that; and too many people don’t.
Very impressive; you’ve managed to explain and summarise in one short post what others fail to do in a novel length ‘how to write’ book. Having said that, it is an issue I do need to address. Thanks for high-lighting…
There is so much to it Paul. When you get around to organising those short stories of yours into an anthology, give me a shout and I’ll give you a hand to check them out. I’m enjoying this challenge, and it tends to make me think about my writing skills more too. Thanks again for following mate.
Am in Glen Coe at the moment so can only comment on and tweet your posts relatively late in the evening. And yes, will definitely hold you to that offer of help. Great job you and all the ‘atozchalleners’ are doing mate…
I’m currently following your advice re ‘Strong as Death’. Further behind than I planned to be, but life in the form of work and other issues have slowed things down this week. Best laid plans and all that. I’m abroad for the next couple of weeks, so will try and keep going and have it all done and dusted for the Easter weekend! Then it’s operation ‘follow Tom’s next piece of advice’ and see what happens!
Have just started your book an hour ago; if I were seventeen again I think I’d probably have a crush on Minnie, she sounds utterly scatty but in a delightful way.
😀 that’s the great thing about books! You can live in an entirely different world for a while. My secret crush (not secret after I’ve written it here!) is on a certain twilight-ish vampire! No one was more surprised than me when that happened!
Take your time Julia. As I said above, the longer we can afford to leave a piece of writing in between edits, the better it is for us as writers.
Today, I completed the third draft of my next thriller, ‘Amsterdam Calling’. It will now be left alone until about the 20th April. I have a few days off then and I’ll be able to concentrate better on the final draft. I want to publish by mid-June.
Enjoy your break, and remember, I’m always here if you want to bounce any ideas, or queries. Thanks again for your support.
Thanks, Tom. When I’ve finished this edit, I will start on my next completed manuscript after a gap of three months or so. I’m sure I’ll be picking your brains on a couple of issues!
I have so many ideas and dialogs floating around in my head all the time..I really should follow these steps and write a novel!
Why are you on here talking about hit girl? Get onto that screen and get started!
Nice editing process. Always good to hear about how others writers go about it. I thought I was pretty organized, but you’ve got me beat. 🙂
Hi, visiting from A/Z. I’m not a writer, but I do like your system for editing and it seems to be something that “works” for you. I like that you put the work away for a couple of days each time in the editing process and then return to it with a different perspective on editing. I’m sure it is very effective! Enjoy the rest of the challenge.
Editing is the cream on top of the cake. My latest novel (which has been resting for nearly two months) had quite a few redrafts. After the first, it sat dormant for over a year before I went over it again. Then two years later (and countless rewrites) I sent it off to my editor.
The novellas I write, I edit myself. May not be 100% perfect, but then what book is!
Well, thanks for sharing with the A to Z, the information has been invaluable. Have a great day off and see you again on Monday. 🙂
PS. Sorry for the long post, I get carried away sometimes. 🙂
the problem I find hard to do is turn off my inner editor when I am writing my first draft. It tends to block me sometimes. 🙂
Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
My A to Z Challenge
Caring for My Veteran
You’ve got my editing down to a tee! Well points1-7 at least. I then have to go through the same process for each different aspect which needs an edit. Currently have five different draft novels most on their second or more edit. Three edits for novels, really? It’s going to be up wards of six to seven for mine.
Really useful advice which I intend to use. It’s nice to follow and connect http://aimingforapublishingdeal.blogspot.co.uk/
Really enjoying reading all your posts, giving me some great tips. My own editing process is actually quite similar, although when I do my red pen edit, I like to print it out and then actually go through it with a red pen. Something about the physical paper with red scribbles everywhere is just motivational.
Excellent editing comments whether a short essay or fullblown novel. A lot of bloggers could benefit from your A to Z advice!
HI Tom, Good guidelines. I find the “cooling off” strategy works well for me, especially if I am struggling with some awkward wording. When I go back and read my piece after a few days, the awkwardness jumps out, and a new idea replaces it. BTW, nice to meet in the #AtoZ.
Hi Janice. I apologise for not finding this comment earlier on my travels. I’ve had several spam comments, but I’ve been overwhelmed trying to keep up with comments coming in, and visiting sites; like your own.
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