E … is for edit, edit, edit

E[1]   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.

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