Editing Advice From Various Writers, A List

Alternative title: The Results of My Being A Magpie When Researching Editing

Recently I’ve done quite a bit of reading about editing—not because I don’t know how to edit, but because I want to improve my editing. After all, there must be a reason why I’ve never managed to polish a book (apart from chronic procrastinating). 

Perhaps, I thought, I might be going at it from the wrong angle or something. I am most definitely guilty of line editing prematurely but what else am I doing that I might be able to do differently? In other words, what do other writers do? 

So, as I said, I did a bit of reading.

Here are some things people recommended:

    • Distancing oneself from the story not only through the use of time (minimum time away from novel is, apparently, two weeks) but medium—from digital to analogue, otherwise known as paper.
    • Look at big picture issues such as whether or not your characters are realistic and if the description is either too much, too little or just right (how you decide that, they didn’t go into depth about).
    • What was the objective of your story, and have you met it? Or, if you’re like me and you have no clue, what was the actual plot of the story? If you took notes as you wrote your draft, look back on them and check.
    • Write ten different ‘scenarios’ concerning your story in which you summarise what happens in a couple hundred (though the post says thousand) words. Try to get creative whilst telling your story in these ten different ways.
    • Look at errors in continuity—do all characters make it to the end of the story? If not, what happens to them? Are there any mysterious disappearances (or appearances) you’re yet to explain?
    • Also, do your characters look the same as they did in the beginning of your story? And do they behave in the same ways—is there any character development? Are their quirks, thoughts, opinions, and sayings stay intact or do they change throughout? Re-establish your characters.
    • Create an outline for what you wrote—what happens when? This is, according to the material I read, is best done on excel, but I’m personally rather partial to paper though I can see the uses of excel.
    • Now figure out what’s missing in your outline—are there enough scenes? Could the story benefit from something else? Are there enough characters? Enough developments and events?
    • Set yourself a completion date for the edit so as to not let it drag out and, further, to stop yourself from second guessing every decision you make—if you don’t have the time to think too much, you’re less likely to overthink things.

And that’s it for today! Do you have any advice for those of us editing? 

Here are the blogs, posts and authors whose advice you can see above! There was quite a bit of overlap so unless I mentioned something unique to them, I’ll simply link the posts. 

Thanks for reading!


Lovely image by Nic McPhee.

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