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How To… Edit

Editing is a process every writer has to go through. Most people I’ve met have a deep seated hatred of just the thought, but apparently I enjoy it more than most. That said, I’ve written a step by step guide so you at least know where to get started. Depending on the type of edit you’re doing or personal preference, the order of editing doesn’t really matter, although I will say this isn’t really appropriate for rewrites. G has written her own post for that monster of a subject.

1. Start with a positive attitude… No, really, try it. I have procrastinated so much editing because I’ve let the ‘but there’s so much to do’ attitude sink in. If a positive attitude to editing is out of reach, at least start by telling yourself it’ll be better once you start and try thinking about one correction at a time, leading you closer to success. After breaks from editing, at least telling myself this helps.

2. First edit – spelling. Thinking about the plot and structure is a little mind-boggling. For my first run through, I keep my head down and focus on the words and the sentences. Start with spelling, start with grammar and you’ll be editing fast. By starting with these small satisfying changes, you’ll feel more patient and cut down on time later on.

3. Second edit – mood. The second time over, I start to focus on the mood created from the flow between paragraphs and chapters. This is where I’ll suggest to add a little dialogue here, cut some narrative there, etc. Of course, this second edit will also allow you to tidy up any leftover grammatical or spelling errors, too. This is completely normal as I have read over words like ‘amour’ at least three times before noticing it didn’t say ‘armour’.

4. Structure and purpose. Over the course of editing, I’ll start talking with the writer more, and talking to yourself is included. Start asking whether the plot or length of chapters is working and whether each part is fulfilling a precise purpose. If not, it’s OK to delete it. Keep it in a backup, but remember that to be concise and clear is really what you want. For clarity, you may also want to create a checklist of what each chapter should do.

5. The final edit. Last time, now. Read over your work. In the last three steps, it probably will have changed a bit, so in this final edit go back to spelling and grammar. Personally, this helps me see the writing more like an average reader again, so it’s often a pretty positive experience where you’ll get to see your changes improving the writing in action.

Good luck with any edit, whether it’s your own work, or for others! Keep going when you’re on a roll and you’ll feel the stress of it decrease as you allow for this reflection.

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