“E” is for editing!
If you are a writer, you know
how important the importance of editing your work. But when and how do you tackle this?
The temptation to edit strikes a writer from the beginning–chapter one, page one, line one. I suggest that you ignore your editing instincts as you write that first draft. Get your story out while the ideas are fresh in your mind. Step into your protagonist’s life, focus on his or her goal, gaze in horror upon the conflict that stands in the way, delve into the emotions and stress, and write that story!
I recommend this, but I don’t always do it. I am tempted to edit as I go. I often stop in the middle of a sentence and search my mind or a thesaurus for that perfect verb so I can cut an adverb or a weak “to be” verb. Or I want that perfect metaphor or symbol to capture emotion better. But those ideas can come later. In fact, you don’t even need to be actively writing your story to get those ideas (how do you like the weak verb and adverb in this sentence? I’m letting it go).
Step 1: write that first draft! Jot down the symbolism and ideas that come to you while you’re driving or in the night, but don’t slow down to work them into the story at this point. Crank out the story!
Step 2: with the first draft complete, it’s hammer time!
The first stage of editing begins. It’s time to go back through and hammer out those weak verbs, cut weak phrases, reword those awkward sentences, and add the cool metaphors and symbols that you thought of while walking the dog, taking a shower, listening to your spouse, or navigating through traffic.
Step 3: now it’s time to exchange chapters with your critique partners. Critique partners go in close. They get to know your characters and story line chapter by chapter, and they offer suggestion for strengthening one chapter at a time. My critique partners are amazing and my stories would not be as strong without them. I continue to learn so much about writing, both from their excellent advice and from critiquing their chapters.
Step 4: your manuscript is on its third draft by now, but you may have missed some important elements. So it’s time to release the kracken!
Oh, I mean, enlist the help of a few beta readers. These indispensable people read straight through from beginning to end and often find plot holes, weak character arcs, dangling threads, missing setting descriptions, and other elements critical to good storytelling.
Step 5: once you’ve made changes based on your beta readers feedback, you might want to go through the story one more time. And then it’s ready for professional editing.
Step 6: if you plan to self-publish, consider having a few more people proofread for typos before you share that bad boy with the world. Otherwise, get cracking and find that agent or publisher!
Looking for a good editor?
Elizabeth Breneman – She is an NCSU graduate with a degree in English. Her passion for the English language has led her to edit a variety of documents, including novels, academic papers, and her college newspaper. Using her background in technical and creative writing, she currently works as a bill proofreader for the NC General Assembly and does freelance editing in her spare time. Contact her via email: email@example.com
Michelle Buckman – She is an author, speaker, and editor. Her specialty is content/line editing, but she does copy editing too. She can be reached at: MichellePBuckman@gmail.com Her website is www.MichelleBuckman.com
Lisa Nicholas with Mitey Editing – Lisa has a background in writing, teaching, editing, and publication design and can provide a range of services from developmental editing through proofreading, formatting for ebook publishing and layout design for print production. Stop by her website.
Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz – Barb is an editor at CatholicMom.com, a writer for Today’s Catholic Teacher, and a member of the Catholic Writers Guild. She is also a freelance writer and editor. Check out the editing services she provides on her website.