Thursday, March 19, 2009


Editing. That dreaded task that we all have to face as writers. Just when we think we have edited to perfection, we have to edit more. Well, I am at that point right now (editing). Sometimes, I feel like throwing my computer and my manuscript out the window. I know it needs a lot of work; it’s just too hard for me to look at it objectively sometimes. Also, I am afraid that I will change something and make it worse instead of better. I have a colleague reading through it right now, so that may help a bit. Maybe I need more time away from it?

A friend was kind enough to email her thoughts earlier, but I would like to get all of your thoughts on editing too. How do you keep from being overwhelmed? What is your approach? Do you ever feel like the more “rules” you read, the harder it is to focus on your original purpose?


T. Anne said...

I'm editing right now too. Fun isn't it? I like it in the regards it's easier than the initial draft and yet polishing it into something you ultimately will be proud to see in print seems daunting. But nonetheless
it's a part of writing and I could write forever because I love it.

I like to walk away from my manuscript for a while then take on editing. Generally I go line by line rewriting until the sentences sing to me.

Good luck!

Marty said...

I have been struggling with a first draft so I am probably not the best to comment on this post. Nevertheless, it is important for you to celebrate your initial success (finishing the story) then allow yourself a well deserved rest before editing.

When editing save several copies of the story - backing up every significant change as different files so you do not lose better phrasing.

When you are ready to share your final draft find some *beta readers you can trust and send off your baby for some serious critiquing.

Lastly, be dispassionate about any changes you must make - this is your story - you will not screw it up.

*The best beta readers are not those who will simply tell you everything you wrote is GREAT, nor those who are so *brutal* in their criticism that you feel assaulted. The best beta readers simply love the English language and wish to see you succeed as a writer.

Tara Maya said...

Finding good beta readers is critical. I have edited my novel so much I can't remember which way is up in the story. A beta reader can ask me, "What is going on here?"

beth said...

Ugh. I hate editing. I'm considering doing some more of that now, actually, but...

I don't think of rules when I edit. But I have found that I've absorbed some of them unconsciously, so when I get to a problem scene, I tend to recognize the rule broken or source of the problem. That helps.

Cindy said...

Though I hate walking away from a story for a bit when I just finished it and really feel like editing it to complete it, sometimes (in fact most of the time) it's for the best. I read through a particular manuscript about three times, and this was after the bigger changes. So I thought I had gotten everything. But then just a few days ago I was looking at it again and I found all sorts of new things that were wrong. From grammatical errors to inconsistencies in the plot (as far as the timeline was concerned). Time away and objectiveness will be your best friends.

Litgirl01 said...

WOW great advice...all of you!! You guys are the best!!!

Lady Glamis said...

I already sent you some advice, but I just have to say that your feelings really are normal. You know how frustrated I've been these past few days with my own editing. Art comes with a cost. It wouldn't be art without it.

Keep at it! We can struggle and whine together. :)

scott g.f. bailey said...

You're revising your first draft, right? Here are the steps I took, and I found them useful:

1. Step away from the manuscript. I don't mean for a day, but a month if you can. Just don't look at it and try to forget as much of it as you can. If you can, have someone you trust (who is brutally honest and better-read than you) read your ms and make notes during this time.

2. When you come back after Step 1, sit down and read it, start to finish, and don't change a word. It's better to print it out and sit away from your computer for this step. Have a notebook and a pen handy, and take notes about your experience as a reader. If there are parts that even you skim over, mark those in the ms. Pay attention only to the flow of the story and if the tale is interesting and makes sense. See if you wrote in dramatic scenes instead of narrative summary. Make lots of notes in your notebook.

3. Work on the storytelling aspects of the book when you begin editing. Don't line-edit. You're wasting time at this stage to fix grammar in passages you may well cut entirely. You aren't editing, you are revising. You are working on story and character, not spelling and grammar.

4. Repeat Step 1. Then come back and read the whole thing over again, making notes. Either you'll still need to make fixes in the story itself, or you can move on to a line edit.

Always take a break from the novel, for as long as you can (but not, like, years) between each round of revisions. Good luck! The revisions are hard, but they're where I did most of my best writing.

lotusgirl said...

Oh my gosh! I feel like you're speaking right to me on this one. I'm in editing mode too right now, and I often am worried that in some of my edits I'm making things worse instead of better.

The last few edits though I think have made things better.

Beta readers are vital. I'm so thankful to mine. Especially those who read version after version of the same thing without complaining.

DebraLSchubert said...

I'm a freak. I love editing. I love seeing something I've written get better and better. My best advice? Don't second-guess yourself; trust yourself. When you get to the point where all you're doing is changing a comma or a word every few pages, then you're pretty much done. Until then, keep on editing. Although you're never COMPLETELY done (as writers, we'd each be pulling the pages off the press as they're being printed just to change that one sentence if we could!), trust that you'll know when it's time to start the querying and synopsis process. Then you get to edit those until the planets collide and we're all walking around with three heads and no arms. (And I'm not even a sci-fi or fantasy writer!) See? Writing's fun. Whee!!!

Litgirl01 said...

T. Anne - walking away is definitely best.

Marty- backing files is a great idea. I would sort of freak if I was deleting stuff! :-)

Tara - I agree...beta readers rock!

Beth - I'm getting to that point. Reading Stein on Writing at the moment. It's a great book!

Cindy - definitely taking time away! ;-)

Glam - thanks for all of your help! You have kept me sane! LOL

Scott- you are SO right about taking a break. Funny, I am so tempted to look at it! LOL I like the way you approach it...makes it less overwhelming. I'll give that a try.

Lois - I have a friend who isn't a fiction writer resding it as we speak! ;-) You are very right about having good betareaders and friends.

Debra, thank you for stopping in! :-) I enjoy reading your blog. So,'s better to have me far away from the presses, or I will snatch it up to make changes. LOL

Marybeth said...

I've written quite a few Blogs about my love (or lack there of) for editing. Now that I am moving an entire chapter of my book to a different location I can gladly say I HATE EDITING!!! So do not feel alone. One thing I have learned about writing...writing the novel is the easy part, it's all the work that follows that is the challenge! Good luck!!!