Discussion: How Do You Edit?


I’m editing again at the moment, so of course I’m thinking a lot about the editing process. Mine is evolving all the time as I try new things and as each new book has different needs. For example, in the past, whenever I’ve edited a draft, I’ve edited it straight through, just like how I do when I write them, fixing whatever major issues it had, and making notes about any problems I discovered partway through that affected whatever I had edited before, leaving those changes until the next draft. Now I do a lot more going back and forth, fixing the draft as much as possible before leaving it, trying to perfect the plot as it stands so there is less work for next time.

I’ve written about my editing process on the blog before, and if you’d like to see my humorous rendition of the way I edit, I highly recommend you check out my post HERE. But basically, my editing process goes a little something like this:
  • Read through the draft and make copious notes about what needs to be fixed
  • Read through notes and brainstorm fixes to problems
  • Actually edit
  • Do several passes of problem areas if new issues crop up (this is a new step for me)
  • When I’m happy I’ve done as much as I can, I leave it for a month or so, then rinse and repeat

What I don’t do is fuss over the language in the first drafts. I like to get my plot and characters hammered out first, and then worry about making it all pretty when the storyline actually hangs together (and boy doesn’t that end up taking a while). But while that’s how I edit, it’s probably not your process, so today I thought we could discuss editing processes.

Do you make a single pass through your book, or do you go back and forth fixing problems as you discover more? Do you like to make sure the text reads smoothly as you go, or do you save that for later drafts? What does your overall process look like? How many passes does it usually take for you to get that pesky plot in order? And what piece of advice would you give to someone (i.e. me) going into a new round of edits? Let’s discuss!

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  1. I'm a go-straight-through-and-try-to-fix-everything-at-once. XD IT'S NOT THE WISEST PROBABLY. And it's pretty intense and mind crumpling. ;) I feel like maybe only focusing on one thing per edit (like plot or language) is actually a really good idea! I love how there are infinite ways to do things when it comes to writing. WE ARE ALL DIVERSE DRAGONS.

    1. It sounds super intense! I admire you for your ability to be so focused in your writing to be able to do so much at once. I know I couldn't do that. But, as you said, we are all diverse dragons (and that is such an awesome way to put that). Infinite possibilities!

  2. While actually writing the novel, I'll write down some of my problem areas and what I had loads of trouble with so I have some ideas of what I want to do. Then when it comes to editing I usually wing it and go chapter by chapter which sounds really foolish and it probably is but it works (I suppose). It usually takes forever for me to edit because I'm never 100% happy with a chapter unless I re-write bits 1000000 times which is a pain. Oh well.

    Editing is one of those things that you can do in numerous ways and it can work out, which I love because different writers have different unique ways of editing and that's wonderful.


    1. Ugh, I know the feeling of not being satisfied with your writing in the first rewrites. I'm always tempted to rewrite it a thousand times before moving on, but I know for me I would never actually finish even one editing run through. It's so interesting seeing the different ways people edit. Editing methods are as diverse as we writers are!

  3. I tend to go in phases. In Phase 1, I fix really big picture stuff, like major plot holes or inconsistent characters. Phase 2 has a narrower focus on things like improving the flow of specific scenes. Phase 3 is word-for-word nitpicking to make each paragraph/conversation as strong as I can. I think it helps keep me from getting burnt out, since each phase has my brain working in different ways.

  4. Neat discussion! My editing process has similarities to yours. When I write my first draft, though I make a rough outline, I often discover things along the way while writing it, so I make notes as I go with the handy dandy document notes in Scrivener. When I go to edit, I read over the entire manuscript and take more notes plus I gather the old ones. I read them and make up a battle plan (this usually includes plot, worldbuilding, and character changes), then rewrite the book with those notes in mind. This helps me build on what I have. When I'm going in for more serious editing, I will have let the book sit for a while then I read over the whole book again and take notes, then I start nitpicking all of the little sentence structures. I read each page in my mind and out loud to get as many errors as possible. Then I search for weasel words, then I do one last grammar check before sending it off to betas who then give me more little edits to do. XD That's my basic process.


  5. I edit quite strangely - it seems like people usually dash down the first drafts and THEN go back and edit, but I'm an edit-as-I-go-along sort of person. Every five or so pages I write, I go back and edit what I just wrote. Several times so far throughout the writing of one of my WIPs, I've gone back to the beginning and edited up to the point where I am. So when I get to the second draft, I think I'll try typing out the whole thing again, which is something I've never done before.
    Good luck on editing your novels, dear!

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

  6. My editing style is kind of complicated, especially since I've never spent an inordinate amount of time really editing. I write really short first drafts, so then my next four to five drafts tend to be me rewriting the entire story again and again... Small problems get solved, but then in the end it isn't like... intensely different. I guess?


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