Story Writing is Easy, Editing is Hard

Posted on March 6, 2013
Upon my nth revision of my first novel, I almost punched a hole in my laptop.  Not that misery loves company, but I hope all writers go through this so I don't feel like a lunatic.

The madness comes from rewriting entire paragraphs and pages on each revision, because I was just not happy with the way a particular scene turned out. Too much description, not enough, etc. etc. I'd read an entire manuscript over and over, and on each pass rewrite a whole chapter.

Crazy right? Why couldn't I just get it right the first, or second, or third time around?  Well, I think I figured it out...at least for me. I finished editing my second novel, and now on  my third novel and I'm following a few simple rules:

  1. First read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. A lot of it is pretty well known trade info, but there are some things that make you say, "Ahhh, that's what bugged me about my scene." 
  2. When editing, read every single word out loud. EVERY SINGLE WORD. I know this takes time but this is one technique that many writers bank their success on. I believe it works. Your ears provide a backup for errors your eyes miss. 
  3. Clean your mental palate upon each revision of a chapter. Put the file away and read the news, clean your house, even watch a movie, then come back to it fresh and reread it out loud, again.   
  4. Don't go to the next chapter until you're utterly satisfied with the current one. This means reread, out loud, until you find yourself not making any edits. I find myself rereading a single chapter at least five times in a single day. Sometimes I sleep on it, and if I like what I read in the morning then I move on.
Following these rules allowed me to revise Everett's Jubilee within 1 month. I put it away, and reread the whole thing again with almost no changes.  I say almost because of those damn syntax errors. At this point, my freelance editor catches everything else. She's a word mercenary!

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