Writing Tips

Just Keep Editing: 15 Steps to Doing it Right

As NaNo is now over, it’s time for me to return to my normal projects: this means editing.

Oh, how I loathe editing in all it’s glory, going line by line and paragraph by paragraph and overhauling the entire thing over and over again until you just can’t stand to read it one more time. I am currently at that point with a novel I’m working on. This is my 4th time editing it, and as soon as I open it today, it will be the 5th.

A year has passed since I finished writing it, and in that time, much has changed. So how do I go about the editing process?

It’s a many-folded process.

  1. Write and finish a novel/short story/poem/creative work of fiction
  2. Let it sit: this is important. I like to give mine at minimum, a few weeks of sitting on my laptop, simmering as I try to forget all the awful things I wrote.
  3. Reread: After enough time has passed, sit down and reread it. Often, you’ll find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought.
  4. Reread again: Use this reread to pick out plot holes, character weaknesses, overall arching things that need to be improved. Write them down somewhere – a notebook, a document, a napkin, somewhere.
  5. Add in or take away everything you noted in step 4.
  6. Reread again: Make more notes.
  7. Use these notes for another rewrite. If you can’t see anything else, go on to step 8.
  8. Have someone else read it: It doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional editor, but someone who can give you a somewhat honest critique is best. Critiques such as, “It was good. I liked it.” are no use to anybody.
  9. Take their opinions and thoughts and decide if they have merit to your story. If so, rewrite some things again.
  10. Have the same person AND another person read it.
  11. See step 9.
  12. Lather, rinse, repeat until you are satisfied with your book (if you are a perfectionist like many writers, at some point, let go of the reins and pronounce it done).
  13. Do a line by line editing – look for grammar, spelling, typo errors
  14. If you’re not good at grammar, etc, have someone do it for you.
  15. You’re done! Now you can shop for agents or self-publish or do whatever you want with it.

Keep in mind that this process can take a very long amount of time, and for many people, it is certainly not the most fun part of writing. I, personally, dread it. It is necessary, though, in order to become a real, published author for many people. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is shit,” and I’ll amend it with, “And that’s why we edit.”

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