5 Steps to Effective Editing

This article is by Sydney A. Kneller.

glowing penOnce you’ve agonized your way through a story or novel, you breathe a sigh of relief that your task is finally done. But the truth is, the hard word is just beginning.

Before you can send your work out to be seen by the world, you need to spend some time editing. This is a crucial stage in the life of your manuscript, as this is when mediocre stories may rise to greatness.

Here are a few steps to use in the editing process:

1. Wait a Day

Trying to go back and edit something on the same day you wrote it can be difficult. Everything is too fresh in your mind so your eyes just sail over the words as you read them. It’s often better to get a second round of editing done after you’ve had a night to sleep on it. You’ll look at everything with fresh eyes and will tend to catch more mistakes and things you want to change.

2. Find a Beta Reader

It’s possible to make a mistake that you yourself may never catch. It’s always good to have a beta reader that you can trust. You also need a perspective on the book that is outside your own. For instance, only someone else can tell you how well you’ve painted an image using words. The image obviously looks perfect within your own mind, because you came up with it. Writing is about sharing your vision with others, and only another person can tell you if your message has come across.

3. Consider Rewriting Scenes You Don’t Like

Sometimes, you may not be able to get a scene to work right for you, no matter how much you try to edit it. You tweak sentences here and there, you move things around… but you just can’t seem to get it right.

Consider rewriting the entire thing again. This can feel like a pain, but when basic editing doesn’t seem to get the job done, it can sometimes help to start over from scratch. Rewrite the entire scene without any reference to the original, except from memory. Don’t make it a play by play copy, try to come at it like you’re writing it for the first time. Once you finish, compare the two, and combine elements that you like, while abandoning things you don’t.

4. Be Willing to Make Cuts

There may be scenes you really want in your book. You wrote it so beautifully and the words sing like poetry. But if it doesn’t add to your story; cut it out.

Don’t try to force something in just because you like it as a stand-alone concept. Write on behalf of the entire story. If something feels awkward when you look at the whole picture, be willing to let it go.

5. Move on and Come Back

If a scene just doesn’t want to work right, come back to it later. Move on with your book and write other parts. As you unearth more of the overall story, the scene may be easier to perfect once you come back to it later.

How do you approach editing? Do you have any tips or tricks that work especially well for you?

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Ron C. Nieto
6 years ago

Excellent advice!

Beta readers are underated, but they can truly help you take the story to the next level by pointing out stuff that was perfectly clear in your own head.

On top of being willing to rewrite scenes (hard to do, but priceless!) and to cut things out, I’d add the need to move around an re-organize your scenes. Sometimes the scene is perfect, but it needs to happen later. Sometimes it needs to happen “off camera”, and you can still send it to your readers even if it didn’t make it into the book.

I find that structure helps when editing: I try to fit my written novel to a structured template, and this allows me to see when I’ve talked too much about unimportant things, when I’ve put the focus on an unimportant scene, that sort of thing.

Thanks for the article 😉

6 years ago

Excellent tips, I just started editing my novel and have found plenty of scenes I need to re-write or cut completely. It’s certainly a process but still enjoying it!

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