Talking to other writers about their process is always a treat for me. Whether our techniques are similar or vastly different, I find the experience illuminating and invigorating. I’ve seen people asking about editing lately, so that’s where I’m going to start. To kick off my “Process” posts, there will be a special bonus post Friday that follows up this one!
I prefer to set aside first drafts for at least a month once they’re finished. During that time, I busy myself with writing something new to cleanse the finished draft from my mental palate. The important thing is to come back to the piece with fresh eyes. My writing is usually pretty clean in terms of grammar issues and spelling. Any time spent on improving these skills serve writers well over a lifetime!
When I’m ready to edit in earnest, I do the first read-through. This is the freshest my brain will be and I take advantage of that. Primarily, I look for plot holes to fix or fill, but I’ll also fix any spelling or grammar issues that slipped past me. I’ll watch my comma use during this pass and tighten up any sentences or paragraphs I can. I also watch to be sure everyone is acting in character and that my point of view is consistent. If I struggle over reading a sentence or paragraph, I’ll make a note to come back and fix it later. The important thing in the first pass is to maintain the flow and make my experience of reading the piece as close to my readers’ as I can while not losing the benefit of fresh perspective.
After the first read-through, I roll up my sleeves and start fixing things. My personal rule is: plot first, then polish. I might add in an entire scene that will need to be polished along with the rest of the work. If I polish a piece before I fix the plot-holes, I’m creating extra work. I need to be as efficient as possible throughout my writing process, because there is always another piece waiting to be written.
When the plot is fixed, I’ll go through the draft several more times to make sure everything is tight, clear, and gripping. I want each piece to be as good as I can make it.
Finally, I polish up the piece by checking my list of common and not-so-common word choice errors. I do a global search on the document for “that,” “really,” “so,” and “just.” If any specific words stuck out while I did my read-through, I search for those as well. I remove unnecessary instances of these words and figure out if I can use a stronger word instead when I need to leave them.
In the most recent piece, I noticed the word “moment” everywhere. I have no idea how it crept into the rough draft and propagated itself all over my pages. After removing all of the “moments” that I could, I changed the remaining ones to more specific words wherever possible, and made sure that “moment” didn’t appear more often than every ten pages (did I mention that it insidiously propagated all over my pages? It really did.)
Editing is a long, challenging, and rewarding process. My stories deserve the time and attention necessary to make them as good as I can.
What about your editing process? Do you have specific words that creep in to your text or face other challenges in editing?