Saturday, July 28, 2012

Editing...Where Do I Start?

I’ve found myself in an interesting position.  I need to start polishing and editing two different stories.  Each is about 50,000-60,000 words each.  They are my NaNoWriMo novels from last November and this June.  It’s an interesting position because I’ve rarely ever finished a story before.

For example – the fantasy novel I’ve been posting bits and pieces of over the last several Write on Edge prompts is at like 75,000 words and nowhere near done yet.  I’d say I’ve probably got at least 25,000 words left to write to get to the end.  At least that one I know where the end is.  Usually I don’t have a clue.

My first impulse is to read each one and start making changes.  But I hesitate at doing so.  What if I start changing things and then part way through change my mind and go a different direction?  This makes me think I need to just read each one through all the way once and look for where there are issues.

I have given my one story to a beta reader (a.k.a my sister) and she’s given me feedback on that one.  I do like her way giving feedback.  She sent me a series of emails every 2-3 chapters with things from small typos I missed to inconsistencies in the story.

Maybe that’s the best way to go.  Read each story through with pen and notebook in hand.  Make notes on each chapter of what I need to work on or fix.  Then go back and actually start fixing.

How do you go about editing a novel length piece one you’ve finished it?  Any advice you can share?


  1. A best friend only got the title because I announced to a group of people that I wrote a book. She volunteered, without truly knowing anything about me or the type of work it was, to edit, and for free.

    She asked if she could use a red pen, explaining that some people have an aversion to red ink. I told her "red ink away". I can see the corrections better in red ink. And I discovered that I not only appreciated her time, but I thoroughly enjoyed her own storytelling talent.

    After her first month with what I thought was my finished novel, I discovered my novel was a first draft. A good first draft, but a first draft nonetheless.

    I learned soooooooo much from her and her red pen. I find for lengthy pieces, actual dead tree paper works best for me. I walk away from a piece for days, sometimes weeks, and I read the work aloud, which also helps. I arm myself with a red pen and a yellow highlighter and I'm not afraid to look for errors in my own work. Then I rewrite and start the process over until I'm satisfied.

    Having a beta reader you trust is key, especially if that reader can offer you true, intelligent constructive criticism. Don't be afraid to follow suggestions, but do remember they are just suggestions. If you're asked to chop something out, but you still believe it's key to the story, it could be evidence that there's a missing puzzle piece somewhere. Or if you do chop it, and you still really love the scene, save it somewhere. Maybe the piece can be altered later for a completely different WIP. I save everything, sometimes in triplicate cuz I'm a hoarder that way, but I never know when the ideas or characters will find their way into something else.

    I'm one of those people that don't work that well with a structured outline, until it comes to editing. Then I follow a pretty structured editing formula that works best for me.

    Uhm, I got a little wordy didn't I? I didn't mean to take over your blog. I do want to add before I sign off however, that you write the stuff I love to read and I feel at home whenever I visit here.

    1. I love what you add here! I think it adds quite a bit to the "discussion" on editing. I am glad to hear you appreciate what I write here. And I love to hear your perspective on things as I am always impressed with your work as well.