On Editing

As usual, I’m procrastinating what I should be doing (hint: it’s part of the title). I just wanted to take some time and talk about my editing process and how it works. When I first started writing, editing terrified me. To be honest, it still kind of does. Once I figured out my process, it became a lot easier to tear my work apart and build it back up. Editing is daunting. Here is some advice to get you started.

  1. Read through in a format where you can’t actively change things. I prefer to print off my document to do this (don’t worry, I recycle) and go over it with a red pen. I don’t physically change anything in the actual text during this step. I comment and circle and correct as much as possible, but the removal from the computer helps me to focus more on the big picture and less on nit-picky tiny things. Those come after I’m done rearranging the plot. I personally like red pen because it’s easier to see against the paper and I feel like I’m accomplishing something.
  2. Keep a copy of every version of the draft/document. This makes changing things easier if you get easily attached, like I do. For example, in the draft that I’m editing now, I reconstructed the entire plot of the beginning. I still have a copy of the original just in case there’s something that I need to change back that isn’t working or if I want to see how far the draft has come since its first iteration.
  3. Open up to your friends. I’m not telling you to push drafts at people but if you have one friend who is a dedicated reader, it can be invaluable. I had a hard time opening up to people about my writing. First, I thought I was a horrible writer, and second, I thought they wouldn’t be interested. My friends have found some very bad grammatical or structural errors and found plot holes that I never thought of. Having a second pair of eyes is insanely helpful when you’re too close to the project.
  4. Kill your darlings. This is my biggest piece of advice – and the hardest to do. If something is not working, cut it. Don’t look back. That is when having a clean, original document comes in handy. Those characters that don’t matter can live on in your memory or whatever, but if they’re not adding to the story, they don’t deserve to be there. Do some exercises in reshaping plots while cutting characters or scenes out. Ask yourself what the scene adds to the plot. If you don’t have an answer or if the purpose can be achieved in some other way, the scene should be cut.
  5. Remember that you are the editor of your own story (until you have a real editor, of course). If you desperately think that something belongs in the story, it probably does. Read things out loud. See how they feel. See how the story feels without them, and revert back if you need to.

That is a not-at-all comprehensive list of how I edit. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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