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Thread: How do you self-edit?

  1. #1
    figuring it all out
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    How do you self-edit?

    Hopefully this is in the right forum...

    I completed my first MS, a 93k word fantasy, a few months ago. I did two complete rounds of editing using a front-to-back read. For the last couple of weeks, I am now working on specific problem areas, jumping around quite a bit through the book to address each area at a time. This is my first novel, my first editing process.

    My process doesn't feel particularly efficient. I don't know if the editing process can be called efficient.

    I'm a big believer in learning from others. Would you mind sharing what you do?

    Thanks!
    Kevin

  2. #2
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Cool

    Hi Kevin,

    This is the beginning of how I learned to edit my own work, FWIW.

    I had to learn to edit my own work. Editing your own work is extremely difficult. It’s kind of like this saying I heard, “We cannot objectively write about ourselves because we believe our own lies.” My firm beliefs are that every writer needs an editor, and if you want a quality editor, you must pay quality fees. Editing is difficult and tedious work when you are not editing your own work.

    That being said, I edit my own work and I consider it excruciatingly painful. However, I have no choice, and sometimes I leave the work for a month and come back to it with fresh eyes and find all kinds of improvements to make.

    First, define the editor’s purpose. What type of editor do you need? Developmental, line editing, etc.
    When I edit a book, I immediately begin two logs, a style sheet and a chapter by chapter notes sheet. I color code.

    It amazed me how much easier organizing became when I learned about style sheets. Style sheets are not only for editors. Every writer should create a style sheet for each work, but not necessarily at first. Here is a simple style sheet blue print: http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/07/12...-the-benefits/

    In my chapter by chapter notes, I use that for every little thing that I may need to refer to in chapters way down the line. I note when a character is introduced, even if the character is a dog, imaginary, or an inanimate object. You can use chapter by chapter notes to develop characters and arcs.

    I came up with color coding when I edit because I am dyslexic, but this is the best article I have seen that explains uses of color coding in black and white, plus the author gives great advice on self-editing:
    http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/55...yeredEdit.html

    I created my own grammar guide which consists of hundreds of files at this time organized by grammatical term. I do not always grasp a linguistic or grammatical term in textbook form, so I explain to myself details about the concept in language that I understand.

    I studied everything I could put my hands on for styling dialogue, and I created my own dialogue guide.

    Last, but most certainly not least, I tackled comma rules in the following critical areas. Punctuation improved my writing 75%. The following are some headings in my comma guide.

    PUNCTUATION: Understand the proper usage of the semicolon, the colon and the comma.

    AP DOESN'T USE A SERIAL/OXFORD COMMA BEFORE THE LAST ITEM IN A SIMPLE SERIES.

    FOR A SERIES OF COMPLEX TERMS, THOUGH, USE COMMAS AFTER EACH FOR CLARITY.

    AREAS OF CONCERN IN COMMA USAGE ARE:

    COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS:

    FANBOYS: For And Nor But Or Yet So

    COMPOUND PREDICATES:

    ADVERBIAL CLAUSES:

    APPOSITIVES:

    COMMAS WITH APPOSITIVES

    IS ESSENTIAL-NO COMMA

    IS NOT ESSENTIAL We still know who the subject of the sentence is without the appositive.
    Last edited by KendallDavis; 11-02-2017 at 06:40 AM.

  3. #3
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Strictly speaking you can't edit your own work, you can only revise it. An editor edits.

    As I am/have been an editor, I can tell you how I do it, though.

    I much prefer to work from a printed copy because I find I spot more and work for longer that way.

    The trick is to work from big to small.

    I read through the book, all the way through, and make notes as I go on a separate notebook. I'll not try to resolve any issues in this read-through but can't stop myself correcting punctuation, spelling, etc., as I go. But this read-through is primarily to spot big problems like continuity errors, plot holes, structural issues and so on.

    Once I've got all my notes down I organise them a bit: for example, I might have noticed that there's a problem with plot line one which causes issues in three places throughout the book, so those three notes go together (I sometimes type my notes out, but more often I just number them so all these three would get the same number). And then I work through them and fix all those big problems, crossing the items off my list as I go. This stage often involves writing new scenes, deleting scenes, combining scenes etc.

    Once all that's done I do another read-through, again taking notes, and again I then resolve all the issues I've found.

    I do that until I am happy with the book.

    Then I read through looking for smaller things. At this stage I improve characterisation, the flow of the text, etc. I tend to delete paragraphs and sentences at this stage, rather than whole scenes. Again, I read through and only do the correcting once I've finished that read through.

    Once all that is done I know I have a ms which is solid in terms of plot, etc. But as I've changed so much in it it's probably full of typos etc. So it gets another read-through and this time I correct as I go, checking spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.

    And once all that's done it gets another read-through, again checking for smaller errors.

    And yes, that's a lot of reading through but it's how I was taught to do it by the lovely publishers I've worked for, I've not yet found a reliable method which gives a cleaner ms for any less effort, and it works for me and lots of other writers I know.

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank you for that information, Old Hack. I only edit my work, and help others, When I began, above is how I began to edit my work. I find myself going over my work again and again until I am sick of it, and then going over it again. I am never happy with it, LOL!

  5. #5
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    do you still edit, Old Hack?


    going through over and over is normal, I reckon. All part of the madness. I revise until I'm sick of seeing the page and then pull in betas/critique partners, who usually give a nice fresh perspective and make me keen to revise again.
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool.


  6. #6
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    I was a commissioning editor for years. Then years ago I had children, moved away from London, and gave up my job and worked freelance instead. Over the years I've done less editing and more writing, but I do still take the occasional job. Only for trade publishers, though, and not for writers who are self publishing, because I was uncomfortable working as the sole editor on books, and uncomfortable working on books which often weren't published well. It made me sad.

    I've also done some consultancy work for smaller publishers, and right now I'm a director for a couple of companies which are unrelated to publishing, but the business side of things still has to be done.

  7. #7
    I want one for Christmas!! VV c.m.n.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avekevin View Post
    Hopefully this is in the right forum...

    I completed my first MS, a 93k word fantasy, a few months ago. I did two complete rounds of editing using a front-to-back read. For the last couple of weeks, I am now working on specific problem areas, jumping around quite a bit through the book to address each area at a time. This is my first novel, my first editing process.

    My process doesn't feel particularly efficient. I don't know if the editing process can be called efficient.

    I'm a big believer in learning from others. Would you mind sharing what you do?

    Thanks!
    Kevin
    Question: Have you taken a break from editing, yet? There's only so many edits/revisions one can go through without getting sick of it. It's best to put it away for a while (I choose 1-3 months) before picking it back up.

    Another thing I do is load up a pdf version into an ebook reader, tablet, or smartphone if the screen is big enough, and read it from there. Sometimes it's good to get a different perspective than staring at a computer screen.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by c.m.n. View Post
    Question: Have you taken a break from editing, yet? There's only so many edits/revisions one can go through without getting sick of it. It's best to put it away for a while (I choose 1-3 months) before picking it back up.
    Not anything nearly that long. I took a few weeks off between the read-throughs. I am hoping to finish the current edit and get it to some beta readers so I can take a longer break.

    Another thing I do is load up a pdf version into an ebook reader, tablet, or smartphone if the screen is big enough, and read it from there. Sometimes it's good to get a different perspective than staring at a computer screen.
    Good advice, thanks!

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    The trick is to work from big to small.

    I read through the book, all the way through, and make notes as I go on a separate notebook. I'll not try to resolve any issues in this read-through but can't stop myself correcting punctuation, spelling, etc., as I go. But this read-through is primarily to spot big problems like continuity errors, plot holes, structural issues and so on.
    I'm new to AbsoluteWrite. I was specifically looking for advise on what to do after the rough draft. Unfortunately, I've been churning through the chapters, focusing on all the details and not feeling like I'm making any real progress. Your advice to read through the book and capture notes longhand was a huge help. I finally feel like I'm getting to the meaty issues without being distracted by endless wordsmithing (which can come later). I just wanted to say thanks!

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    for me it helps to take a good look in the mirror in the morning in harsh, unforgiving bathroom lighting. there are things to take care of staring you right in the face. take care of those things best you can and then do your other business and try to take care of the rest of the day.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    For some odd reason, when I'm sitting at the pub getting all zonk-faced, idly reading my own latest creation on the phone app because of the lack of target opportunities, that's when I find the errors I missed before.

    I usually do a round or two of editorial revisions before passing it off to my editor. It helps a lot to change up the format, e.g. font, pagination, ect... so at least you aren't reading the same exact page layout.

  12. #12
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    I edit myself (ahem - revise) pretty much as it comes out of my brain and down through my hand. That is, I write carefully the first time. I do have to fight SpaG problems - that requires some extra attention and calmness on my part.

    Sometimes, when I'm finding it hard to get things clear, or I'm afraid it will disappear if I think too much, I write whole hog, maybe as much as a paragraph, then I go back and read it, think about it, --- and write it over from scratch, using the method outlined above.
    すべての武器を楽器に
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  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin insolentlad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al X. View Post
    It helps a lot to change up the format, e.g. font, pagination, ect... so at least you aren't reading the same exact page layout.
    That's what I do for my 'final' run-through (which isn't always final!) — I convert it to a PDF that is fairly close to what the published book would look like and sit down with pencil and paper and list everything that I'd missed before. Always something. Sometimes a lot of somethings.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancon View Post
    for me it helps to take a good look in the mirror in the morning in harsh, unforgiving bathroom lighting. there are things to take care of staring you right in the face. take care of those things best you can and then do your other business and try to take care of the rest of the day.
    ...as a part of your editing process?_?

    O.o
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool.


  15. #15
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    maybe this is clearer, and i don't know anything, but...i reread what i've written the day(s) before and try to do so in a harsh, unforgiving light (what i've written either works or it doesn't), edit, change things, highlight this/delete that, etc, before i start writing from where i left off. i don't just try to start writing from where i last ended. i have to wade back into the story and in doing so i always end up editing during the process. for me there is always work to do on the words i have on the page before i start throwing new ones on there.

  16. #16
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Yes, that does make more sense :-)
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
    Almost, at times, the Fool.


  17. #17
    I read through the finished draft and make notes while also constructing a document with info on each chapter (I write long books, so this is critical). It includes the reader emotion I want that chapter to have, the external events, the internal events, and any notes for things I need to tackle. This is where I organize revision ideas I might get from betas/editor/agent/intuition, especially when something affects multiple areas of the manuscript.

    I try to tackle the big picture stuff first (character arc, emotion, pacing, structure), then gradually narrow my focus until I’m chiseling at the sentence level. If I've been hopping around the MS doing big picture stuff I like to do the sentence-level groom from start to finish so I can iron out any snags in the same go, and get a fresh sense of the story flow. Lastly, I check for pet words, spelling, and frequent errors I make, then a final formatting pass.

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