Monday, May 11, 2009

How Do You Edit?

Since I'm in the dreaded editing phase of my debut novel, I'd love some suggestions from fellow writers. Do you edit on your computer or do you use a hard copy? I know some people hire professional editors and I wondered if any of you have done that. If so, who do you recommend? I've seen several names at the back of Writer's Digest and they seem to have good credentials and connections. Thanks for any light you can shed on this. I am ready to start my next novel but can't until I get through this process. I don't know why I hate it so much and keep putting it off doing anything and everything else.


  1. Have you tried the ORA-before-meeting critique group? I've never had a lot of luck with partner-editing.

  2. Yes, I have tried the ORA critique group. In fact, I took a chapter last month. It was very helpful but at 90,000 words it would take forever to critique my entire ms. I'm impatient and want to get it in the hands of an agent now! ha I'll just muddle along. I'm good with finding typos but occasionally head hop and get out of the proper POV. I'd also like to cut out about 5,000 words but I've noticed thicker novels are popular right now so it may be fine.

  3. For me, it depends on which draft I’m on. Creating the second draft, I edit on the computer. First drafts are always too terrible to waste the ink on. After completing the second draft, I continue to edit on the computer, though I begin reading it aloud. Upon completing the third draft, I print all 400 hundred or so double spaced pages and I begin reading the manuscript out loud, with pen in hand. I may go through the manuscript multiple times on my way to completing each draft. When I print the manuscript, I print it with page numbers and when I find a page that needs revision (hopefully few by the time I get to the fourth draft) I circle the page number. If I go through the printed pages again, I use a different color of ink, so that I know I have already made the changes on the computer, rather than printing the manuscript again.

    I never dread the editing phase of a novel. It’s the first draft that I hate. In the first draft, you have to come up with all of this stuff to fill the gaps. In editing, you get to discover the story, cut away the stuff that shouldn’t be there and add more to the good stuff. By the time you get to the fourth draft, you’re just reading a good story and marking any mistakes you might find.

  4. Thanks for your input, Timothy Fish! I'll try that approach (not dreading the editing) and do a mind over matter thing. I have gone through many drafts to get to this final phase and I truly am excited to finish. "Just do it" should be my motto-- stolen from Nike? I can't remember.

  5. I'm like Timothy, I don't mind the editing. That's where I find the good stuff! I do edit on a hard copy and I feel very free crossing things out, making notes, rearranging sentences and paragraphs. I edit with a pencil, usually, just because I may have to go back and change something again because of later corrections and that makes it easier. If I make a minor change in a line, I put a check mark in the left margin so I can find the correction when I do go back to the computer for final edits (a missing comma or letter, for example).

    I try to edit somewhere I can sit for a while and away from my house, if possible. A cafe/restaurant with unlimited diet Coke refills preferred! I try to read straight through once, making notes in a spiral notebook (with page numbers) if I have a question or need a word but not making the full correction then. The next time through, I spend more time on each page.

    I've never been good with a critique group - too much time needed to go over all of the book, as you said. I have a critique partner who helps with sections or chapters (and I was very picky - I had three others who didn't work out). We email each other pages and get together about once a month as needed (we live in different towns). Also, I recommend the book SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King.

    Good luck and have fun!

  6. Thanks so much. Great advice. I like the spiral notebook idea (complete with page #'s)and will try that. I'm also a fan of diet Coke.

    I'll check out that book. I very much appreciate all the help and am happy to hear others don't mind editing. Just hearing that apparently put me in a better mindset since I've edited happily the past two days.