The First Stage of Editing


As I mentioned in my post last week, I’m currently preparing for my next round of edits. As I’m in full editing mode at the moment, I thought I would talk about what I do before actually starting to make changes. For me, there are a few things I like to do before I start editing and improving my novel. Before I learnt much about editing, I thought it would be as easy as changing words and phrases in one pass. But, as it turns out, there’s so much more to editing than that, so much to be done before I can get into the main task of making my writing better.

The first thing I do is make a copy of the book, labelling it with a title and draft number. If anything goes wrong during editing, whether I make a massive change I don’t like later on, or if I lose a chapter, I’ll still have a copy of the book as it was. I also try to back up the draft too, so that there’s less chance that I’ll lose any writing should something go wrong.

My next step is to read the book. Some people recommend not making notes while reading it for the first time while others recommend you do. I find that I like to make notes about planned changes while I’m reading it for the first time. Normally I see the errors best in this read-through, so it only makes sense that I mark them as I notice them. What I mark is different for every round of editing. If I’m editing a book for the first time, I only look at the big picture things such as scenes that don’t work or plot holes. There’s no point in tweaking words and phrases that might be deleted later.

Lots of people suggest that you should print your book out and read it through on hard copy before starting to edit. But, if you’re like me and can’t afford the paper and ink to print out a novel a couple of hundred pages long, then this isn’t very helpful. The theory behind it is good. Changing the look of your writing is useful for helping to spot errors because your eyes don’t skim over familiar looking text. I read my book on my tablet, but you could also change the font, or put it on an ereader.

Once I have my notes and know what problems there are, it’s time to get out the trusty notebook and brainstorm solutions for problems such as awkward backstories, missing motivations, and truck sized plot holes. Getting my thoughts out onto paper, rather than on a computer screen helps me work out what I want to do easier. Again, it’s the change in form from the computer to hard copy that makes it easier to plan rather than just write.

Finally, after all these steps, which can take me 3-4 weeks, it’s time to pull up that document and make those changes. After following these steps, I know what I want to change, and also how I’m going to fix it, which makes editing a lot faster and more accurate. My editing system is always changing and improving, but following these basic steps works for me.

What do you do before you start making changes? What does your editing process look like? Any suggestions to make my editing process better?

On the subject of editing, I read an excellent post a couple of days ago which clearly explained the difference between active and passive voice. I keep getting confused about this, but this post helped refresh my memory about the rules for this. You can check the post out here: PassiveVersus Active Voice

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  1. Great ideas! I have never thought about half of those things. My main thing to do before editing is to leave it for a few months to forget everything, then I read through it, then I read through it again taking notes and then last of all I edit.

    1. Oh yes, waiting for a while before editing is very important, isn't it? I never used to think that I would need to do it (I was so silly) because obviously I was going to be a great writer and great writers don't wait before editing. Turns out that that time's very important for gaining distance from my writing. Thanks for stopping by the comment. You made my day!


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