Little said is soon amended. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one. ~Baltasar Gracián
We’re often told to “turn off the inner editor” and just get the whole story down before going back and editing. To some of us, that advice seems counterintuitive and anxiety-provoking. Thank you to Julie Glover and to Writers in the Storm for this balanced article about self-editing.
Writing process is a topic of ongoing conversation among writers, whether just starting or multi-published. Plenty of books and articles have been written and workshops and webinars held to suggest this writing process or that one, claiming it’s The Way It’s Done.
While savvy writers out there reject the one-size-fits-all message, we still have certain presumptions that we mostly swallow. One of these can be summarized as…
Write First, Edit Later
There’s no end to the advice to simply turn off your inner editor and vomit words onto the page. Just get the story down!
Consider these quotes from some truly great authors:
“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” ~ John Steinbeck
“Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.) Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular.” ~ Natalie Goldberg
“Simply refuse to look at anything you have written until the last page is done. Period.” ~ James Frey
“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~ James Thurber
“Write the first draft as if you’re out for a spontaneous night with a devastatingly handsome man you met abroad. Run wild, take chances, and don’t even consider the possibility that you’re making the wrong choice. Just go for it.” ~ Christine J. Schmidt
Obviously, this works for many, or even most, writers. Too often, we don’t know enough about our plot and characters, and the first draft is our opportunity to discover, explore, learn, and hone our story.
If that process works for you, embrace it.
But Is It True for Everyone?
W. Somerset Maugham presumably said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
We don’t all write the same, and a process that turns out one writer’s best work could be the death of another’s work. Let’s look at four reasons why editing as you go is a terrific idea for some authors.
1. Get the Foundation Solid
You may be writing along and reach a point in the novel where you feel unmotivated, stuck, or that something’s just off. Perhaps you can’t put your finger on it, but something isn’t working the way it should.
We talk about story structure because we understand that a novel needs a decent foundation to hold up well. That includes a plot without holes, a strong character arc, a compelling antagonist, and much more. But whether you plotted or pantsed this far, you might have a kink in your structure and continuing to write scenes would be like adding more stories onto a tilted house.
Going back and fixing the problem, or editing as you go, could keep your story from needing a total renovation later.
To continue reading this article, click here.
Thank you to Ryan Lanz for this suggestion-packed article, which first appeared on his website, A Writer’s Path.
For some writers, editing strikes fear into their hearts. Okay, perhaps not fear, but some discomfort. At least a stomach ache, right?
Before you reach for the antacids, let’s discuss the different methods of editing and introduce some ways that might make it less intimidating.
Why do we edit?
I know, it’s a simple question. But as you’ve observed in some of my past blog posts, I strive to get to the root of the subject at hand. By mastering the basics, we can reach many heights (thank you, fortune cookie from lunch).
- To look professional
- To keep from annoying or putting-off your readers
- For the writer to further prove that he/she is not an amateur
- To avoid discouraging an agent, editor, or publisher from considering your manuscript
I imagine those all seem pretty obvious. The last item was particularly interesting to me, though. I’ve read many interviews where literary agents say that spelling/grammar errors are often within the top three pet-peeves. One commented that a writer can’t be trusted with a book deal if the same writer can’t be trusted with basic grammar.
Types of Editing
That also brings us to the different types of editing. I once thought this was fairly straight-forward. Ah, but the life of an editor is anything but simple. There are many types of editing that one can do. Here are some of the different categories:
- Line Editing
- Substantive Editing
- Developmental Editing
- Manuscript evaluation
- Manuscript critique
Related: Check out available proofreaders and copyeditors here.
Some editors process these terms/categories a bit differently, but essentially it depends on how detailed you want an editor to go. Sometimes, it’s just easier to pay an editor to work on your manuscript; however, you can always go the route of self-editing.
So, how do you self-edit? This isn’t too difficult on the surface, but there are a few methods that might help to keep in mind.
To continue reading this article, click here.
Now that I’ve published my first novel, To Hunt a Sub, I can say from experience that writing it and editing it took equally long periods of time (and marketing is just as involved). After finishing the final rough draft (yeah, sure) and before emailing it to an editor, I wanted it as clean possible. I searched through a wide collection of self-editing books like these:
The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
…and came up with a list of fixes that I felt would not only clean up grammar and editing, but the voice and pacing that seemed to bog my story down.