Writing is fun. Writing the first draft is a lot like starting a new relationship, there’s so much to explore and so much excitement. Writing is a wonderful creative process.
Editing is none of those things.
But it is vital to turning your work into something that other people will really want to read. That’s not to say that the first draft you write isn’t good but through editing you’ll make it SO much better. How much better? Maybe better enough that someone will want to publish it.
Before I begin I want to be clear that there are lots of ways writers choose to edit their work. Just google it and you’ll see what I mean. This is the way I do it and it’s an evolving process. It’s also heavily based on an article by Gabriela Pereira titled The Great Revision Pyramid (Writer’s Digest, September 2015).
In short, this is what works for me.
What you’ll need: high lighters, pens, patience, time
Print out a hard copy of your work. Choose a font style and size that is easy to read. Read your work, out-loud, from start to finish (obviously how long this takes depends on the length of your work). I find this so embarrassing so I always make sure no one else can hear me – and then I read like I’ve got an actual audience.
- Does the voice and point of view sound right?
- Are there places where you changed voice or point of view whilst writing?
Mark any places where the voice or POV doesn’t work but don’t change anything until you’ve read the whole thing. Then, go through your work and make any necessary changes.
? What if my POV isn’t right?
Sometimes you read your work and you realise it would have been better in first person or third person or whatever. That is a bitch of a realisation. There is no other way to put it. But if this happens, you just have to suck it up and go through you whole manuscript making that change. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Do you know your characters? By the time you get to editing you should be very clear on who they are, what they want and what they need.
Print out a hard copy of your work (editing is not a tree-friendly process). Choose a character (I start with the protagonist). Working your way through from start to finish, focus only on the scenes that involve that character.
- Is his/her voice consistent?
- Are his/her actions consistent and realistic given who the character is and the situation they’re in?
- Do they sound unique or do they blend with other characters?
Mark any places where you need to make changes. I use a different colour highlighter for each character. Make these changes in your work and then move on to your next character.
Get rid of characters that don’t serve a purpose and combine characters that really can’t be differentiated anyway.
This is just the start of the process and probably enough to take in now. We’ll finish building our pyramid next week when we look at Plot, Scene Structure and Polishing.