In my last blog post, I outlined the way I write, and in it I mentioned that when I’m not writing, I’m editing. Well, since I have once again failed the process of planning my next post ahead, I thought, “Eh, why not? I’ll write about that.” After all, my original post on editing went up on October 1st, 2015 (nearly two whole years ago), and was thoroughly cringe-worthy in hindsight. Since so much time has passed, I thought I’d tell you about my current editing/revising process, and what those nearly two years of experience has taught me.
I’m not as much of a rule-breaker when it comes to editing, since English has rules—but I’m sure my process differs from other writers’ in one way or another, so I’ll continue to present my process as a series of confessions.
Confession #1: I let my first drafts sit a good long time in their oh-so-rough state before I let them see the light of day again. Why? Because I’m the author. No matter how it turned out, I still have a heavenly picture in my head of how it’s supposed to be. Not how it is, but how it was, in my head, before I ever put a word on the page. This makes it extremely difficult (if not impossible), to spot errors right after I finish writing it.
So I let it sit. I used to say “for a month,” but it’s probably closer to a year these days, because of the writing-editing-writing cycle I use. For example, I just finished writing Warriors of Aralan #10. #8 is the one I've just started editing, and when I publish it, I’ll go back to writing and write #11. Then I’ll head back to #9 for editing, and so on.
I use this process for several reasons. One, I know myself. I know I can’t make myself edit if there’s writing to do (because writing is so much more fun), so I do it this way. Two, while I’m editing, I have plenty of time to daydream about the next story I’m going to write, which furthers the plotting process. And three, (which I’ve already kind of mentioned), it gives me plenty of time to come back to each project with new eyes and see what needs fixing.
Confession #2: I don’t have a set number of rounds for editing, nor do I exactly have a plan for how to tackle them when I do start, for the very simple reason that every story is different. Some of my work comes out a lot better than others. By the same token, some comes out a lot worse. I’m not sure why that is, but that's the way it works, and so each time I begin editing a new project, it’s a little different.
That said, I begin by praying for God’s guidance, and then usually I read through the story I haven’t seen in many months, to get a feel for what went wrong this time. Sometimes there are subplot loose-ends. Sometimes I have a penchant for mile-long sentences. Sometimes characters were way too emotional, and I have to tell them to pull it together. (Okay, *guilty cough* these may be a little more than occasional occurrences).
But my big rule of thumb while editing is, “Is it necessary?” If “it” isn’t, whether “it” is merely one word too many in a sentence, or one character too many in a world, it's time to wave goodbye. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
Confession #3: During at least one round of editing, I have someone else read the whole thing out loud to me, and this person usually takes the form of my mom. I know, I know—it’s exactly as torturous as it sounds—but it’s become an invaluable part of the process, and I’m grateful she’s willing to help. Just like with with plotting, hearing what I wrote helps me find awkward sentences, or anything else from a myriad of manuscript illnesses with which I am way too familiar.
Confession #4: After four or five rounds of edits, (sometimes more, sometimes less), I’ve tried to look for spelling and punctuation errors, shorten lengthy sentences, make sure I’m using the correct homophones, test dialogue for authenticity, root out plot holes and rewrite what’s necessary. But I don’t pretend to have this business of editing down to a science. I just go about it the best way I know how, with God’s help.
Confession #5: Finally, when I delete big things (usually scenes), I don’t really get rid of them for good. I usually copy and paste them into another folder, and that helps ease the pain of altering the original document. (Yes, I know you feel it too)! I also keep the whole original in an “Original Documents” folder, in case I ever want to go back to it for some reason.
So that’s my editing process! I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing it—maybe you've learned something new, maybe you could teach me something new. How does your process compare?
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!