In celebration of finishing the edit of COLD BLOOD, WARM HEART I decided to share my six step editing process with you all! Exciting I know.
Editing can be-and often is-the most tedious and sometimes painful part of the writing process. However if you can keep sight of the creativity and excitement that you had while writing, it doesn’t need to be.
Just like with writing, there are steps and tips that may help ease the process and maybe even make it more fun. So here are my personal techniques!
STEP ONE: TAKE A BREAK
Yes that’s right. Hey, you just finished writing a book. Take a friggen break! Not just a lunch break either. Go out, celebrate, do something to congratulate yourself. This is a big accomplishement, whether its your first time doing it or your hundredth. It may seem unneccesary but believe me, gatting space from your novel will be the biggest key in seeing it objectively. I cannot stress doing this enough. It may be the biggest key to your editing. Personally I aim for a month at least before getting back to the manuscript. It will wait for you.
STEP TWO: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
This sounds vague I know but it is also amazing the way your mind just opens up, your story will seem fresh and your drive renewed if you manage to look at your novel with fresh eyes. So how do you do it? Before you open up the manuscript take out a notepad and think about your book. What is the theme? What is the point of the story? How would you summarize it on the back cover? Now, is there anything in the story that conflicts with that? Is there something that you now realize doesn’t work or make sense? Is there a compelling way to add to it? Its amazing what this excersise will accomplish. By actively deciding what you want from the book, you can give it a new clarity that it may have been lacking before.
STEP THREE: SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECK
Very basic, I know, but while you are rereading your manuscript again for the first time you don’t want to be distracted from the bigger picture by small errors. It ruins the flow and may inhibit your ability to get into the story. Annoying!
STEP FOUR: READ!
This is the fun part. Read your novel as though someone else wrote it. DON’T MAKE CHANGES! Not in the actual manuscript any way. Take as many notes as you need to. This is the stage where rewriting might grab at you. Just be sure to do it through note taking. It ends up getting really messy when parts of your rewrite are already written into the story and parts aren’t. Especially when you might end up liking it how it was before a little bit more than your rewrite.
*NOTE: make sure that after rewrites and major edits you always save as a new file. You will end up with multiple copies of your book but you will also be able to keep track of what draft you are on! Being able to see how far your book has come is amazing motivation.
STEP FIVE: REWRITE
Here it is. The meaty part of the editing process. It will probably have you tearing out your hair, just remember, if something doesn’t need to be changed, don’t change it. Anything that you really like can be saved, whether its a particular chapter, dialogue or even sentence. figure out how to make it work and if it still doesn’t fit you can adjust/add or even delete it. Oddly, deleting parts of stories is often the key to having a stronger book. Use the notes that you took and I’m sure that everything will come together.
*NOTE: If something is still bothering you about the story maybe its time to put it aside and start the steps all over again. Yes it’s a lot of work, you have to decide if your story is worth it. I have a feeling that the answer will be yes.
STEP SIX: READ AGAIN
You did it! The book is done, you are happy with it. You have accomplished something amazing, something that people often dream of doing but never do. You are ready for the next step-submissions. One last thing, read the book one more time to be sure that nothing has slipped through the cracks.
There you have it. This is my personal process for editing, not just novels, but short stories, screenplays, whatever I happen to be writing. It may not work for everyone but it gets me confident and ready to submit. Remember, there is no set in stone rule for this. Do it in whatever way makes you content with your manuscript/screenplay/essay/etc…
I hope this helps! Good luck and keep tuned for other tips on writing and submitting your work.