Editing, Writing

My Writing Process: Editing to Smooth Out Your Baby

You finished the rewrite? Great! When you examine the first draft vs the second, the changes and improvements should be immediate. But now for the next hard part, taking you baby apart with editing before sending it over to someone else for criticism. 

Since the actual step of handing your manuscript to an editor doesn’t require any work from you, other than harnessing the emotional pain, of course. This step could be blank after you have sent that email or package.

There seems to be more words below here…

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Okay, fine. I wasn’t actually done.

A step or two exists between finishing your rewrite and sending the work to an editor. They are not strictly required, but would certainly be helpful.

They are personal editing and beta readers.

>A note: having beta readers at this step is great and will help both you and your editor, so use them when you can. Having feedback on what works, if there are major plot holes, or inconsistent characters, is great to fix before an editor reads it and tells you those same things for ten times the cost. But beta reads don’t in any way replace editors. You must still send your baby away.

(This is all I have on the topic of beta readers since it is technically another step of sending an email and washing your hands of it for a few days.)

Let’s move onto personal editing then.

And again, the first step is to reread your last draft and take notes of any inconsistencies, lost story threads, etc. Then work through it and fix these. 

Ideas:

  • Control-f, and find any problematic or annoying words that shouldn’t be there.
    • E.g. feel/felt, knew/know, etc. Words like feel, knew, sometimes thought/think are a sign of telling not showing.
    • Or the suffix -ly. ‘Nearly,’ ‘barely,’ or the worst… ‘Suddenly!’ (We all know about the sneaking ‘suddenly.’) Trim these down by at least 70%. Most sentences function great and read smoother without these words anyway.
    • On that note, ditch any crutch words. Such as ‘almost,’ ‘got/get,’ ‘also,’ or ‘that.’ These are my personal demons, but search your writing for whatever words you find yourself using as a crutch but that don’t actually add anything to your writing.
  • To hunt for passive voice; I always uses the tip of adding ‘by zombies’ to the end of each sentence as you read. If it makes sense, grammatically, then the sentence is passive and you must destroy it. By zombies…
    • Reordering the words and making sure there is a noun at the beginning of the sentence fixes the issue.
    • Make note of ‘get’s here too. They are sneaky in allowing passive voice to slip into your writing.

This is a short list because actually going through you manuscript multiple times will take a while. The lists of what you could possibly edit are endless. Instead, focus on a few issues that crop up most in your writing and eliminate them. On that note…

Final step: Call it done.

Give yourself deadline for this edit or a limit for how much editing you can do. The second most common fail point to finish writing a book, after not finishing the first draft, is when you get stuck in an endless cycle of editing. 

There will always be more you can touch-up, fix, or change in your manuscript. There will always be something else you haven’t thought of before. Always. 

Let it go anyway. You have to decide on a stopping point before you even start editing and hold yourself to it by whatever means necessary.

(When I had gone through my first story a second time in editing it myself, I reached the crossroads where I was convinced I should do another rewrite, just to make it a little better. I stopped when I realized the level of perfectionism I was striving for would mean I’d still be editing it now, rather than finishing up the first draft of my second book.)

The manuscript will never be ‘done’ and it can never be perfect. Your goal is to reach an acceptable point and send it off to a professional editor.

A pro will see things to fix that you would never have noticed yourself. Once you have a copyedit done, you can’t mess with the manuscript without screwing up the grammar.

It is a win-win as long as you can reach the point of letting your baby go.

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