I love writing.
I hate editing.
There’s nothing like a first draft, the rush of sitting down and letting the raw ideas flow free. Going back to scrub grammar and punctuation, not so much. But that’s the difference between best-sellers and rejection slips. Nobody – not Stephen King, nor Jackie Collins nor Suzanne Collins – makes a living on rough drafts.
I’ve read different books and articles on editing, with some estimating that several writers will edit their works five to ten times before publishing. In my humble opinion, ten times qualifies as obsessive-compulsive. But multiple edits are a necessary evil. Everybody has their own method, a way that works for them. What works for me is starting with the big picture and working my way down:
First edit: I review for structure. Does the story work, and flow well? Sometimes in a short story, I’ll add or subtract paragraphs and subplots to improve the rhythm and pacing.
Second edit: Sentence/phrase placement and length (the strongest sentence should always be at the end of a paragraph or phrase)
Third edit: I go after individual words. Should my MC be named Rachel or Rachelle? Did she skip or prance across the street? Like Mark Twain (or somebody like that) said, the difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Final edit: The polish level, where I go over grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is my least favorite part, mainly because I’m a horrible typist.
If I’m in a good mood, and wired on multiple cups of coffee, I’ll give it another once-over, also.
For the most part, I’ve stuck with the same editing routine:
- After finishing a first draft, I like to wait at least a day before trying to edit. My brain needs refreshing.
I do most of my editing (and writing) on the weekends and days off from my day job, as early in the morning as possible before anyone else (especially the dogs) wake up.
Failing that, I take my laptop and move my game to McDonald’s, where I can camp out in the back corner with a cup of coffee and nobody bothers me.
Speaking of coffee, I have as much as possible handy. Whatever it takes to stay alert and find all of those dangling participles.
Frequent breaks, as needed.
How does everyone else go about editing? What works and doesn’t work for you?
© 2016, Dave Allen. All rights reserved.
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