Monday, 8 February 2010

Stage Three of the Writing Process: Editing

The final step of the writing process is the longest and hardest. In the early years of writing, I had this impression that a true writer would write a first draft, spell check, and voila! The genuine creatives just sit down, write as they pull their hair out, and then send out their perfect draft to the publishing house. That's what I saw on TV whenever they showed writers, whether in documentaries or in fiction. Thankfully, I learned soon enough that rewriting is as much a part of writer's life, as thinking up stories. It still daunts me, and it is the one step where I am still working on a personalised process, but I am beginning to enjoy it. Looking at the first draft, just the sheer amount of revisions required often makes me feel like I am never going to get the book done, but then when I see improvements that I make, no matter how little, it gives me hope that little by little, I will get there. Currently, my editing process is quite simple. After the first draft, let the manuscript rest for a little while. Then read through, get the feel for the story. This step tells me if I have plot holes. The next step is to fix easy mistakes, like wrong names. Then go through and fix the plot holes, or any consistency issues. Basically this is a rewrite where required, add scenes, delete scenes, without worrying about making the language perfect. Ideally, a short break here and then another read through. (A step I am most likely to skip) Then go through and revise properly, line by line edit. Polish. And hopefully, done! So there it is, a deceptively simple process that takes forever. This is what I am following right now. It may change, but for now, seems like a logical plan. That's all folks. The three stages of my writing process. How about yours? Have you got yours figured out, or is it work in progress?


  1. That's more or less mine as well. Maybe a second round of line edits, it all depends on what the betas think

  2. I like your editing style - simple and to the point. Well since this is my first revising experience - I would say I look for the plot holes first, then add scenes, delete scenes, then make pretty, then line by line - that is my hope anyway.

    Great post! Loved this series ;o)

  3. I read somewhere that a first draft should be regarded as making a block of ice, which is then ready to sculpt, bit by bit.

    I've just finished my first draft, and had planned a couple of weeks' break. But rewriting is the best bit for me, so I'm pushing on. I won't go into depth about how I do this (as I'm going to blog about it next week), but I find reading aloud a crucial element of thte process.

    Good piece.

  4. Very organized, great process!

  5. Great series of posts, LW!

    With my own editing, I do something similar, in that I read, then edit, then read again. I don't do passes for specific things until the very end though, when I do my language/line edits. :)


  6. Editing has got to be the most important part of the writing process...and the hardest. Glad you're getting a process down! We're still refining ours...

  7. Falen,
    How many times I go through any particular stage would depend on how satisfactory it feels at the end.

    Thanks. Yes, I am dealing with plot holes / changes issues right now. There aren't many plot holes thankfully, but there are things I want to change, so now it's just about figuring out where the new scenes would need to go, and what would change as a result.

    Looking forward to reading your posts about your process.

    Thank you. :-)

    I found looking at a whole manuscript quite daunting, so dividing it into specific things makes it little less scary. Only a little less though...

    Lisa and Laura,
    Good luck with your process. I've got the I just need to put in the work to prove it works for me :P

  8. That's pretty much the way I do it as well, although sometimes I fall into a plot hole and have to dig my way out again. :-)

    I've really enjoyed this series, thanks for sharing!

  9. Exactly right. A deceptively simple process that takes forever. Forever!

  10. C R,
    Yes, those plot holes does make me scream or slam a door or two. That's probably one of my worst nightmares.

    Yup...definitely feels FOREVER :-) Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  11. My editing process is messy. It mostly consists of reading through the manuscript hundreds of times and changing things that bug me. It's not very scientific, and it's not at all organized, but I can usually arrive at something I feel good about (after many, many months). :)

  12. Still editing my first WIP. I'm hoping to get it ready for competition by the end of this month.

    Read,revise,rewrite,rinse and repeat!

  13. Natalie, as long as it works for you, that's the key. I am learning that I am more organised in my own messy way than I realised.

    Ralfast, good luck. Hope it's ready in time for the competition.

  14. I have given you an award on my blog!
    Love your blog!

  15. Palindrome, Thanks :-) That's very kind of you.

  16. Totally agree -- that's a thorough, well-organized way to approach editing. It's pretty much how I handle it, too. I also don't enjoy the editing process - way too technical and tedious for me. But, I know it's necessary. *sigh*

    BTW, here's a GREAT quote I got from a writer's conference years ago (wish I could give her proper credit - don't remember her name): "A word/sentence/scene must EARN the right to live." So profound. I totally agree, and that's been my editing philosophy ever since. If it doesn't fit, or doesn't work - take it out. It doesn't belong.

  17. I found the hardest thing about editing is working out when to stop :-)