Back to editing – again!

red pen editing

I am currently re-editing Undaunted Love (you can see why here). For writers, I think editing is contrary to our nature – I don’t edit at all when I write, and that feeling of creating a new world is why it’s so fun. Editing… Well, editing is about tearing down that new world to a certain degree, and it can be painful!

I use the same process on all my books. I write the first draft with zero edits. After it’s finished, I do a fairly quick read-through and fix all the obvious things, like bad typos and misspellings. At that point, I email the book to beta readers. I know, some people send them a late draft. But I don’t use my beta readers as line editors or proofreaders. I don’t want to spend a ton of time editing before they’ve read the book and made their comments.

What does that mean exactly, in real life? Well, let’s say I spend a lot of time editing a scene and think I have it perfect. Then, when the beta readers respond with their comments, half of them (or more!) hate that scene. Since my general rule of thumb is to pay attention when 2 or more beta readers make the same comment, that means I’ll need to really reconsider the scene, and whether it should even be in the book.

It’s possible that I’ll delete the scene. At best, it will obviously require a lot more editing. Because I’ve already spent a lot of time on it, there’s a mental challenge here, because it’s human nature to defend something you’ve spent a lot of time on. Perhaps I won’t be as objective as I need to be.

Now, I tend to write pretty clean first drafts, so using a quickly worked second draft works for me. I specifically ask beta readers not to worry about grammar and typos (most can do that, some just absolutely can’t let those go!). After I get their feedback, then I really start digging into the work.

My first pass after getting the beta’s feedback is a detailed reading of the book, with the beta readers’ comments close at hand. As I’m reading, I’m looking for character continuity, dialogue issues, lost story threads, and, of course, analyzing the feedback against what I’m reading. This is a pretty long process, as I’m looking at all the big picture things, as well as working on grammar, typos, overused words, and word placement.

When this is done, I print off the book and do it again, making notes in the margins. I find this “on paper” edit very helpful, as I tend to skim as I get tired when reading on the computer, and no amount of mental flogging seems to stop it. Sometimes I use multi-colored pens, but usually I just use one color and arrows, circles and notes to clarify the changes.

The next step is my least favorite: putting the on-paper edits into the document. During this time, I feel like my eyeballs are going to implode. It’s very easy to get tired, and I need more frequent breaks to stay sharp. While I’m doing this, I am not reading the manuscript. This is simply a hunt-and-change operation (thank goodness for Find and Replace!).

After this step, I’m in the home stretch. I read through again, this time really looking at word usage and placement, taking out unnecessary adverbs, and doing “finds” for my most overused words. (“Just” is my worst offender, and I tend to use “and” and “but” a lot, and not always correctly!) I also do a grammar scan on Scrivener and check out all the spelling and grammar suggestions.

I’m really close now! I move the document to Word on my pc and do another grammar/spelling check using Grammarly. (Grammarly doesn’t work within Word on a Mac, so I have to move it over, then move it back.) The final check is when I move the document back to Word on my Mac, when I once again do a grammar/spelling check using the Word tool. Amazingly, the three programs all skip problems, and all propose different solutions!

At this point, I run around my house announcing to my family that I’m done. My son always gives me a high five. My husband, who is usually busy with his own book, smiles, waves and keeps working. My announcement to my daughter is via text, since she’s married, so I usually get an all-caps response saying “YAY!!!!!!!” I congratulate myself for awhile… And then get to work on the next project.



Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Back to editing – again!

  1. I really get tired of reading statements that generalize from one person’s experience or beliefs to everybody. “For writers, I think editing is contrary to our nature…” Really? Then all those writers who consider editing to be part of the creative process either don’t really exist or are wrong? All those writers who actually enjoy editing? You put a blanket statement at the beginning of a post or article and it pretty much guarantees that I won’t read the rest.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just an unrecognized side effect of the narcissism that seems to have taken over the web. This is the way it is for me, so that’s how it is for everybody. Because I’m — like, the center of the universe.

  2. My comment was based on conversations with other authors and not meant to be a blanket statement on the universe. It was prefaced with “I think”, which makes it opinion right out of the gate. Obviously there are authors who enjoy it. There are editors who get into writing later. If you’ve read any of my blog prior to this post, you would know that I am all about doing it the way that works for you. However, many creative writers DO find editing a challenge because it is a completely different mindset, and this post was about my experience, since it is, of course, my blog. Thanks for reading however much you read!

  3. Great post, Jennings–I love reading about the different ways writers edit because I usually see a manuscript much later in the process. I’m curious what you do if several of your beta readers suggest deleting a character or giving a minor character more of a starring role–same process? And do you use a writing software program?

  4. Fortunately, I haven’t had that happen! But if multiple beta readers suggested the same thing, I would definitely have to consider it. Betas have made some great suggestions, so I definitely take what they say to heart! I use Scrivener for writing my first draft and the first edits. I like that my chapters are easily accessible separate folders, which makes editing, adding chapters, moving things around, very easy. Once it’s close to done (post on-paper edit), I move it to Word. Thanks!

  5. Great post! I also write all my thoughts, do a skim run-through, and then send to beta readers. I’m fortunate to have two sets of beta readers–one for content and one for proofing. They are invaluable!! 🙂

    • Absolutely – I always advise new writers to get impartial betas (not their mom and husband!). I’ve had some great comments and ideas from my betas. Thanks for reading!

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