How Do You Edit?

So, I finished the latest WIP and I’ve started the second draft. Despite my best effort to do a decent outline ahead of time, the story took a twist or two for the better during the first draft. To keep momentum and to keep from endlessly editing as I went and never finishing until Christmas, I kept going. I was very pleased when I wrote the last sentence.

Hooray! Just finishing a first draft is a major accomplishment for writers.

Now, I’m going back through the entire MS looking for primarily two things: events and timelines. That’s pretty much it, although if something is glaring, I’ll fix it. Otherwise, I make notes as I go and keep going. I’ll work on items in the notes on the third round.

How do you edit? As you write the first draft? Methodically go through every issue chapter by chapter, refusing to move on to the next until each chapter is pristine? Make a list and handle only so many issues per draft?

There’s no right or wrong way, and each book might call for a different method. The way I’m editing this book is different than how I edited each draft of my last book. So, chime in and tell us how you do it.


6 thoughts on “How Do You Edit?

  1. Well, for the second draft of my novel, I had my small critique group read chapters and have kept their suggestions, in preparation for the third draft. There are a number of time issues, so I’ve made a lot of notes about them and will use them for the third draft.

    Most of the time, I tend to edit as I write – this is both good and bad. Also, when my two readers commented on monthly installments, they were mostly concerned with techincal issues, rather than the overall effect and arc of the novel.

    I have made a lot of notes about what I need to do, and plan to start after I return from Montreal. Still a long road ahead.

  2. For my first book i edited the hard way. I wrote a first draft and then re-wrote the whole thing from scratch. It wasn’t good enough and i found that re-writing it was easier than picking the bits out i wanted.

    After that my drafts were just going through it and changing things that didn’t make sense, or removing the characters that weren’t needed.

    The final edits were just the little things. Spelling/grammar, ensuring everyone is where they should be, and doing what they’re meant to.

    For the second book, i don’t plan on re-writing the whole thing. i found the main problem was that the first draft was written from memory as opposed to from notes. That’s not a mistake i plan on making again.

  3. I write the whole first draft without much editing. I may go back and reread from time to time to refresh my memory and if I catch glaring mistakes I’ll fix them as I go but everything else I leave until I’m done with the first draft.

    Then I let it sit for a while. Then I go back and start to try and clean it up. The first major project I edited took me several years because it sucked 🙂 It sucks less now but I can still see the potential for making it better and I probably will eventually. It was a combination of rewriting, adding, and polishing.

    This next project required less fixing, though still needed some and I mostly just keep reading through and fixing what I can. I have to do it in little chunks at a time or I loose focus. I don’t like to edit.

    We’ll see what happens with the next editing project.

  4. For short stories I tend to be especially anal and go over and over and over the paragraphs I’ve written – sometimes to the extent that the story never gets finished.

    So for the novel I’m working on, I have a plan in place to avoid getting stuck on editing.

    I type out a first, free thought flowing draft of a chapter and then print it out. I then give it one edit, print it out again, and stick it in a file folder. If I get critiques from my online or face-to-face writing group for that chapter, I just write it on my printout with a blue pen.

  5. I tend not to make outlines, or plot before I start writing. Seat of your pants rings true there lol! But editing, I edit as I go. If I see something glaring, I’ll fix it. If it’s a typo, it will be marked and changed at the end of the WIP!


  6. I have a rough outline from the start that I add to as I go along. When I’m writing I do not stop to edit…not even for typos. Once the first draft is done I go back and do my first rewrite…cleaning it up, catching spelling and grammar mistakes. Then third and fourth are what I call sweeps…where I read through completely with an eye out for plot issues, inconsistencies, glaring holes or things like that. Then I have someone else read and edit. Once I get that back, I go through it again with their changes and suggestions in mind. I leave it for a couple of weeks at this point.

    Then comes one or two final edits where I read through for any other problems that I’ve missed and take a look with fresh eyes. By this point I’ve usually started querying already, so the pressure is on to have it polished and ready for the ms requests! If they come!

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