The long road to editing success


Or so it seems. As I work my way through two editing projects I thought I would share where I am up to…

For my larger work I am trying a new process, aiming for one serious edit and then it is done. To do this I am using a process mapped out by another writer, taken from a Holly Lisle workshop, Susan Dennard has simplified the process and set it out, with worksheets, how it works for her.

In a recent writers group meeting we discussed those writers that tell us that we have to do it their way because that is what works. An insistence that the process will not work in part and that we must follow their instructions completely. And it is interesting the variety of authors we have read, or completed workshops with that give us this view for a range of writing practices. Covering everything from drafting and editing to the whole writing process.

I thought it was about time I attempted editing with a serious plan. I am trailing this process to discover what parts of it work for me. We are all different and I believe we should take what we can from other writers as we develop our own writing practice.

I have started at the beginning of Susan’s process and I’m reading through the entire manuscript. As I read I make note of the issues I come across. This is ideally simplified on the hard copy with a reference in the margin relating to the type of issue I find. Then in my notebook I make a detailed note of what that issue is. I am focused on four main areas: plot, character, setting and other (doesn’t fit in any of the others).

It is much slower than I thought it would be. The amount of time required has made me realise just how out of sync I am at the moment; how I have not been concentrating on my writing as much as I would want to and that my set writing times have slipped.

Anyway, once I have read through the entire manuscript and made note of the problems I will have a good idea of what needs to change and hopefully how I can fix it. I am also using my beta-reader notes during this process as well. Several of my readers have marked the manuscript for problem areas and provided a summary at the end detailing major issues and what I could consider as options to fix it. This is a very useful process, and one that you need to do with an open mind and a thick skin. It is essential to remember not a personal attack it is constructive criticism of the work.

Just yesterday one of my readers was telling me how she had wanted to provide honest feedback. I agree that honesty is the main point of the exercise. If you don’t want honest feedback don’t put your work out there.

I find that writing and re-writing a story I am too close to really see where the problems are. The feedback helps ground me and see the story from the readers’ perspective, which is essential because I am writing for readers. If the audience doesn’t like it, then they won’t read it, or buy the next one….

Susan’s notes describe how we should first determine what we have written and then look at what we wanted to write. I am still looking at what I have and although it is taking time, I know it is worth it for I want this to be the best story it can be. Once that part of the process is complete I can start on what it needs to be – or what I want it to be.

Have you trialled someone else’s system? What did you learn from the experience?

Leave a Reply