• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Lost in the Edit Zone Again


toujours gai, archie
I have about 60k words in a novel. It's mostly all there, from beginning to end, but there are major holes to plug, continuity problems, half-written scenes, turgid scenes, all of it. In short, a first draft.

I've cleared other writing projects out of the way and am determined to get this thing to a more completed state, but I'm having the devil's own time of it. I dither over where to begin (current opening is slow, imo). I struggle with how to end this scene, how to start that one. I have a romantic sub-plot that's very nearly unwritten. And so on.

Every time I sit down to try to work, all these clamor at me and I feel overwhelmed. I've got a house with no roof but all I can manage is to tinker with the kitchen shelves. I print and make edits, then throw it out. The wheels spin, the car goes nowhere.

There's tons of advice on how to write. There's precious little on how to rewrite. *grumble*

Does this happen with anyone else and, if so, how do you deal with it?


Hero Breaker
Hello Skip.

I would suggest a layered approach. This assumes you're open to multiple revisions.

Identify general areas of concern. In your post, you listed:

1) Pacing
2) Scene acceptance/deletion
3) Romantic Subplot

I would create a list like this, sort it from macro to micro concerns, and address each with a revision. From your list, I would address the romantic subplot first, the pacing second, and scene acceptance/deletion third.

When that's all done, do another grammar pass through then send it off to beta readers.


I start with a timeline which helps me to structure events. It's on a spreadsheet and works like a calendar. It goes week by week across the top. Characters are listed on the left and each has its own colour. The events are then plotted on the relevant day, a short sentence is all I need.

After that I make a scene map, also on a spreadsheet. Chapters listed on the left, then the number of the scene, and a brief description of the scene in the nest column. In the fourth column is what the problems are, and what I need to do to improve it/alter it/infill sections. etc. Might be more than one issue, so I label them 1.a, 1.b. 1.c....

Then I go through the MS working through those issues, ticking off what I've done.

It's a way of mapping the whole thing out and works for me.


toujours gai, archie
Thanks, folks. I've done those things. @Butterfly, I make such a list, but at every turn there are alternatives. And if I choose Path A, then 1.b becomes 2.c and 1.c disappears completely. But if I choose Path B, it's a completely different set of possibilities. I've even sketched them out, even written a few. But now all I've got is more and more and more possibilities. Editing should be about narrowing, right?

@Ankari, I've made such lists and have even addressed some. As I mentioned, though, with so much already written, I keep getting distracted. I think, I've already written that scene, and it's *mostly* unchanged, so why am I writing again from scratch? But if I cut and paste, then I'm sort of trapped in the old mind-set. I feel like I'm hacking my way through jungle.

I'm not so much looking for a specific methodology, I'm just moaning in public, wondering if anyone else finds the editing process as confusing and wretched as I am finding it.

FTR, I know how to edit. I've done three shorter works to completion. It's this full-scale, multi-threaded novel thingie that's running me around the block.

Philip Overby

Article Team
I'm in the editing boat myself at the moment. I'm running into a lot of people who enjoy editing. I guess I get it, but for me, editing is not nearly as exciting as the first draft. I think that may be why I have dozens of forgotten first drafts. I just don't want to edit. However, I've recently bitten the bullet and decided, "Edit or perish." So I'm working on getting several passes on editing, re-outlining, and then picking apart what is integral to the story.

I'm with you, Skip. I hate editing, too. I guess I feel the same way about cleaning though. After I clean up, I feel better. Same way with editing. Once I do the editing for the day, I feel that much "cleaner."


Myth Weaver
Great minds think alike. Or something of the sort.

I've been editing 'Labyrinth' this past week. Plan was/is to do a 'first over' fixing tiny plot bugs (not so tiny in later chapters), followed by grammar passes using ProWritingAid and Grammarly (grammar ain't my strong suite).

Past couple of days have been spent on Chapter Six. The previous chapters were mostly pretty good, and mostly on the order of 4000 - 6000 words. Chapter Six, though...had a lot of little plot bugs, plus it was 17,400 words long. Killing unneeded speech tags, minor info-dumps, and adverbs has dropped that by a thousand words...but there's still more needing doing. 16,000 words seems a bit long for a chapter, but there's no good division points.

And parts of the subsequent chapters will require significant rewriting.

My current hope is to get the grammar pass at least started before tackling the current 'Iron Pen.' I usually allow a week for those.

To me, the irony is this:

Other writers talk here about how many words they added to their WIP's. In my case, its how many words I've cut.
Last edited:


I am exactly the same with editing and it makes me crazy, except I also haven't quite reached the end of the novel so I dither between just continuing it or adding and fixing relevant scenes earlier on, so I have more of a solid idea where I'm going. It's stupid, really, because I know just continuing will help me fix more problems and form a better idea of the whole, but I still find myself going back.

So far I haven't dealt with it very well and the novel has languished, but I've smoothed out a few of the problems with brainstorming in my notebook, so maybe I can get some momentum going again with the renewed goal in mind.

Commiserations, my friend.


toujours gai, archie
WRT going back, it's worth mentioning that more writers than just Hemingway recommend doing exactly that. In fact, his recommendation was to start at the beginning *every day*. He did allow that eventually this becomes burdensome, but even then he said to start a couple of chapters back every day, reading through up to the current page, then continuing to write from there.

He obviously didn't jump around like I do.

But I've recently started doing just that, and I see his core point, which was that doing this exercise helps make the work more cohesive. My writing starts out awfully fragmented, with scenes scattered all across the novel. I seem incapable of going front to back, and I spend a good deal of time, later in the process, trying to stitch together the various components. Doing the Hemingway Method [tm] will, I hope, go some way in correcting that tendency.

Which comes, fwiw and fyc, from spending years writing in small snatches of time--lunch hour, breaks, an hour stolen in the evening. I got used to writing notes, fragments, isolated scenes. Now that I have the time for sustained writing, I find I have to break the old habit. I am having to train myself to write for extended periods and in a continuous narrative. More than a little difficult, I can tell you. Hemingway's suggestion is the first mechanical method I've found. It seems to be helping, but it's early days yet.

Also, since I'm the OP on this thread, I'm pleased to report progress. My WIP is multi-threaded. So, what I did was, I chose one character, whose story line is somewhat independent of the others, and I'm writing her story entire. In the finished work this will come out to be about four chapters woven into the mid to late chapters of the novel. But right now, I'm ignoring everyone else's story to get hers done. At least I no longer feel stuck.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
I'll repost this article about editing. It echoes what other people say, but I'll go into it a little and why I developed this process.

Target Editing - A Time-Saving Strategy for Writers

Okay, the reason I start big, is because I wasted time tinkering with wording, how to expound on my character's feelings, trying to get the most impact from every scene. What I didn't realize was that my novel had HUGE plot problems, not the least of which were a sort of absent antagonist, a theme of being seriously over-written in emotions, and a journey that often contained scenes for my amusement, rather than to drive plot with tension, pacing and interesting character development.

In short, it was the best book I felt I'd written, and it was barely worth calling a first draft even after a year of said "tinkering".

So I threw myself into learning HOW to edit. AGAIN.

HAHA. After figuring out how to do it in passes, I wrote the article. The thing that's hardest for me, is to get past my own goals, to remember it's a story meant to entertain other people. I can only do that by giving it to other people to read. I let them draw my attention to those things I can't see.

Once I have a good idea of which big items need to be fixed, I work smaller and smaller, honing in on what I need to do.