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Thread: What is your editing strategy?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    What is your editing strategy?

    I am wondering about editing methods. Do you have a system? I have a feeling that it can be tempting to allow editing, tweaking, and polishing of the work to go on and on. I'd love to hear your process. Do you give yourself specific goals as you edit? ex. reading through to look for grammar issues only. Are there tools that you use that you'd recommend? I'll be honest my method has really been more about my mood. Am I in the mood to write or am I in the mood to edit? I'd like to streamline my approach so that I am more efficient.

    PS I could make that statement with regards to several other areas of my life

    Dawn

  2. #2
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
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    I've found this helpful: One-pass manuscript revision

    And NO, I don't do it in one pass! It usually takes me somewhere between 6 and 10 passes. But I find a lot of her exercises and tips really useful, especially when it comes down to honing the thematic elements and eliminating parts that don't move the plot forward.

    As for when to stop: When I get to the point where I'm doing nothing but moving sentences around or trading a word here and there, I stop. I'm never going to be 100% happy with it, and it has to leave the nest sometime.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBChristine View Post
    I am wondering about editing methods. Do you have a system? I have a feeling that it can be tempting to allow editing, tweaking, and polishing of the work to go on and on. I'd love to hear your process. Do you give yourself specific goals as you edit? ex. reading through to look for grammar issues only. Are there tools that you use that you'd recommend? I'll be honest my method has really been more about my mood. Am I in the mood to write or am I in the mood to edit? I'd like to streamline my approach so that I am more efficient.

    PS I could make that statement with regards to several other areas of my life

    Dawn
    =========

    PS

    At some point you are no longer improving your work with more editing but are merely making it different.
    Once you have done the best you can you just have to stop editing and declare it finished.

    If it is not good enough then drop back and improve the skills needed to make the next attempt better.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    I've found this helpful: One-pass manuscript revision

    And NO, I don't do it in one pass! It usually takes me somewhere between 6 and 10 passes. But I find a lot of her exercises and tips really useful, especially when it comes down to honing the thematic elements and eliminating parts that don't move the plot forward.

    As for when to stop: When I get to the point where I'm doing nothing but moving sentences around or trading a word here and there, I stop. I'm never going to be 100% happy with it, and it has to leave the nest sometime.
    ======

    That advice would seem to apply more to pantsers than the hard core planners.
    Although parts of it could be fit to the 5 levels of editing and the planners too.

  5. #5
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    I revise until it's right.
    Happiness, is just a word to me
    And it might have meant a thing or two
    If I'd known the difference.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW danatcsimpson's Avatar
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    Oof, I'd have a tough time finding everything in one go. My brain just doesn't work like that.

    I edit in concentric circles, which tighten as I go. It's more or less in this order.

    1) Plot and characterization, including removing redundant scenes, dead-end subplots, useless side characters. Move stuff around. Up the tension everywhere I can. Make sure characters' choices make sense, they have agency, and they propel the plot forward.
    2) Recheck for internal consistency after attacking the manuscript with a chainsaw.
    3) Double-check any fiddly bits of research needed and add them.
    4) Tighten and beautify the descriptive language, make sure each character's dialogue is unique and engaging.
    5) Enlist the help of Grammarly or similar service for polishing grammar/spelling. I don't have a formal background in writing so I don't always catch this stuff.

    Doing steps in the inner circle of editing before you've completed stuff in the outer circle can end up being a huge waste of time, since so much ends up on the cutting room floor.

  7. #7
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    What writers do to their own work is revising.

    Editing is what someone else does.

  8. #8
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat j View Post


    Here is one view of editing I found. Most are similar.
    Don't post someone else's content in its entirety without even a citation .

  9. #9
    Resist. Love. Go outside. Marlys's Avatar
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    I do a lot of editing as I go. Most days I'll go over what I produced the day before before writing anything new, and every week or two I'll review the whole WIP to date. I look for plot holes, research gaps, character inconsistencies, POV breaks, anachronisms, and anything else that feels wrong.

    I also try to keep a scene map as I go--it's a spreadsheet where I show the placement of scenes within chapters. That can be handy for moving scenes around, since I can see at a glance whether, for instance, I have all the Uncle Jim scenes in Chapters 3-6, when they might work better spread out. It can also make it clear that some scenes just aren't pulling their weight, and might need to go. I usually wait until the first draft is finished before cutting scenes, though, because sometimes I can rework unimportant bits to add vital information instead of creating a whole new scene.

    So by the time I finish the first draft, the manuscript is in pretty good shape. Then I make the hard decisions about cutting or moving scenes, re-read to see if I've left new gaps that need transitions, and do another pass or two for final tweaks. I try to read the manuscript out loud at this point since I've learned that no matter how well I think I hear my text in my mind's ear, my actual ear does it better.

    And like lizmonster, when I get to where I'm pretty sure I'm just fiddling, I stop.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    Don't post someone else's content in its entirety without even a citation .
    That was my post on another board. Cant I recycle it here?
    Last edited by pat j; 11-29-2017 at 09:46 PM.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    These replies are so helpful. My method can use some work but because of your shared responses, I am reassured that my instincts are good. I am particularly interested in learning how to create a scene map utilizing a spreadsheet. I am very visual and currently use a bedroom wall to track different elements of my story but our bedroom is starting to look a little like my second career is that of a stalker instead of a writer.
    I also appreciate the helpful tips on vocabulary as a writer, editing vs revising. This organic education happens when finally talking about writing with fellow writers!

    Thanks guys!

    Dawn

  12. #12
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat j View Post
    That was my post on another board. Cant I recycle it here?
    1. It's not signed.
    2. You didn't credit it.
    3. That makes your agenda for being here clear.

  13. #13
    figuring it all out
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    One little trick I like to use is, on the third or fourth pass, to edit out of order. If there are 30 chapters I'll write the numbers 1-30 on scraps of paper and put them into a hat. Then I'll pick them out at random and work on whichever chapter I've pulled. This helps to stay focused on the technical writing without getting distracted by the narrative.
    "The Story of Q" (novel - self published)
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    "The Sunshine Ward" (novel - on submission.)
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    "Summer Girls" (novel - WIP, currently outlining)

  14. #14
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    I find ample applications of scotch help immensely.

    I do my best not to revise until I reach "The End", although, if I see something wrong or I come back to a project and just have that gut feeling something's wrong, then I'll fix that right away.

    After I finish, I let it marinate for a while, and then come back and do a complete read through. If nothing horrible jumps out at me, then I start a line by line on paper - For me, I just don't edit as well on screen. I want to get away from the computer and avoid as much distraction as possible. Besides, the red pen seems help me focus on being ruthless.

    Sometimes, I read passages out loud to see if there are areas I stumble over (If it sounds wrong reading it, it probably needs to be revised), if there is dialogue that I run out of breath before I finish the sentence (Probably needs to be broken up), or just don't work. I find myself cutting out whole paragraphs, writing new paragraphs on the back of the page, circling sentences to be moved from this para to that, or rearranging words within a sentence. By the time I'm done, some pages are damn near unreadable with all the "Insert A goes here", arrows moving things, etc..

    Then I return to the computer and start transcribing my changes, and probably making more changes as I go along. Then I leave it alone for a few days, give it one more going over and then pass it over to my wife, who is my Alpha reader and she takes the "Red Pen of Doom" to the manuscript.

    After that, I have to decide which revisions I'm going to accept (same as you would do with an editor) and incorporate those, smooth off some edges and ship that puppy out.

    So, that's usually four passes total. Any more than that, I feel like I'm rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

    That's how I do it, but every author finds out what works best for them.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Raindrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    I've found this helpful: One-pass manuscript revision

    And NO, I don't do it in one pass! It usually takes me somewhere between 6 and 10 passes. But I find a lot of her exercises and tips really useful, especially when it comes down to honing the thematic elements and eliminating parts that don't move the plot forward.
    I'll second liz's suggestion. I also tend to spend a lot of time refining my characters's motivations and backgrounds, which in turns sometimes leads to a few plot changes. I'm mostly a pantser, if that matters.


    Quote Originally Posted by DBChristine View Post
    I am very visual and currently use a bedroom wall to track different elements of my story but our bedroom is starting to look a little like my second career is that of a stalker instead of a writer.
    If I could put all my typos together, I'd have enough material for a trilogy.

  16. #16
    Resist. Love. Go outside. Marlys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBChristine View Post
    I am particularly interested in learning how to create a scene map utilizing a spreadsheet.
    If it helps, here's a link to part of one of my scene maps. They differ from WIP to WIP, but this gives a few words about what happens in each scene, tracks length and POV, and has some notes to think about later. Some people use different colors for different locations or characters in a scene, but I don't get that fancy.

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank you Marlys. This is very helpful!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by NealM View Post
    One little trick I like to use is, on the third or fourth pass, to edit out of order. If there are 30 chapters I'll write the numbers 1-30 on scraps of paper and put them into a hat. Then I'll pick them out at random and work on whichever chapter I've pulled. This helps to stay focused on the technical writing without getting distracted by the narrative.
    As I mentioned earlier, my activities can heavily influenced by my moods. This approach would definitely work if I am feeling less focused. Thank you for sharing!
    Last edited by DBChristine; 11-29-2017 at 11:26 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard White View Post
    I find ample applications of scotch help immensely.
    Sometimes, I read passages out loud to see if there are areas I stumble over (If it sounds wrong reading it, it probably needs to be revised), if there is dialogue that I run out of breath before I finish the sentence (Probably needs to be broken up), or just don't work. I find myself cutting out whole paragraphs, writing new paragraphs on the back of the page, circling sentences to be moved from this para to that, or rearranging words within a sentence. By the time I'm done, some pages are damn near unreadable with all the "Insert A goes here", arrows moving things, etc..

    Then I return to the computer and start transcribing my changes, and probably making more changes as I go along. Then I leave it alone for a few days, give it one more going over and then pass it over to my wife, who is my Alpha reader and she takes the "Red Pen of Doom" to the manuscript.
    This is similar to what I do now, well, I'll be honest...it's what I strive to do. I often get hung up on all the notes I've made (consisting of letters, numbers, symbols, tear stains, and maybe a drop of blood or two) that the margins have become so much work to decipher. Your approach is more disciplined. I appreciate the share!

    As for the scotch, good on you! If it's before 5pm it's all about the coffee, after that it might be a glass of red wine. I will admit that I discovered Moscow Mules this summer and enjoyed that brief love affair.

  20. #20
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    I used to punch myself up about editing as I went - starting with whatever I wrote the day before and then moving into writing fresh stuff.

    Now, I just do the rough draft and don't look back. It has cut the time I need to complete a rough draft almost in half.

    Generally, my first pass of revision is for consistency, coherence, plot holes, flow - is all the necessary content present, and in the place I want it? Does ANY of this make sense??

    Second pass is to make things pretty, fine tuning tags, dialogue, descriptions.

    Once the art is assembled and in place, I'll start ctrl+fing to nuke filler words, unnecessary adverbs, etc. I just found an app online that SUPPOSEDLY scans for passive voice called Hemingway App that I am excited to try. After searching and destroying that stuff, I'll do a grammar/syntax/technical stuff edit.

    All passes after that are self-flagellation, and there can be many.

    I also want to experiment with adding more distance - like taking two weeks off - before giving the ms a final final pass, so it helps now that I'm outlining other projects in bits and pieces, so I'll be able to keep myself busy while taking that step back before sending it out.

    Then after ALL OF THAT, I'll pass it off to some betas. @_@

  21. #21
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackcat777 View Post
    Then after ALL OF THAT, I'll pass it off to some betas. @_@
    Yes! Do not use betas until you think it's actually revised to the point you can't revise it anymore. It's not fair to them to make them do the work you should have up front. If they get thrown out of the story early because of all the errors, it's unlikely they'll slog through to the end and be able to give you any good advise.

    Be good to your betas and they'll be much more likely to beta for you again in the future.

  22. #22
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard White View Post
    Yes! Do not use betas until you think it's actually revised to the point you can't revise it anymore. It's not fair to them to make them do the work you should have up front. If they get thrown out of the story early because of all the errors, it's unlikely they'll slog through to the end and be able to give you any good advise.

    Be good to your betas and they'll be much more likely to beta for you again in the future.
    Very good advice.

    And now I am going to quote myself, which feels very egotistical but is really just a way to avoid typing this all out again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    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.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW vicky271's Avatar
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    I've never reached that point in a manuscript. However, I have written a fair amount of essays thus far in post-secondary. When i'm done, I get a second (and maybe third) pair of eyes to look it over. In addition, I take a break from the essay (if time permits) and return a week (minimum) to a month later. Really helps! Gives my brain a rest.
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  24. #24
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    I write close (hopefully) third person novels. After the first round of revisions, I isolate each POV character's chapters and work on them separately. It helps to keep the individual voices consistent.

  25. #25
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    I mostly do it all as I go.

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