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.