Tips on Editing

by , Thursday November 28, 2013
Tips on Editing

It Has to be Done!

 

Last time I tackled getting stuck, you can revisit it here.

 

So today I'm going to confront the love-hate relationship we all have with that dreaded word. Editing. It is vital. When you finish a story and are just so proud you're blind with it, it's convenient to forget that you're not actually done.

 

Editing turns something good into something great. But in my opinion, it is much harder than the first draft. I know some people are the other way around. For a lot of people, the first draft is scary and they much prefer working with a whole story. Either way, it has to be done I'm afraid.

 

First thing's first, take a break from your writing. You've just finished, congratulations! Celebrate by catching up with your friends or your sleep. I would suggest leaving it at least two weeks before even thinking about your story again. Preferably even longer. You have to be able to look at your story objectively and this is just not possible straight after completing it. I find it easiest to edit on paper so once enough time has passed, I print it out and grab a red pen. Then you have to go crazy. Nothing should be safe from the dreaded cut.

 

As to what to change, there are of course the typos and places where sentences don't fully make sense. It really helps to read your story aloud. If you stumble, look over that sentence, there might be something wrong with it. If it takes a few reads to understand, it probably needs to be worded differently. 

 

But that's the easy part. What's difficult is deciding what to cut. And you will need to cut. You have to be ruthless. Pretend you're an evil genius, whatever works for you but you have to trim your story. There may be plot points that fizzled out and never went anywhere or there may be a sentence that has no purpose. Taking these out will tighten your work and make it a more entertaining read.

 

Don't just cut sentences. Cut paragraphs, full chapters or a whole character. Sometimes a character has no purpose or their purpose is so small it can be incorporated into an existing character. You don't want to confuse the reader with unecessary information, even if that is in the form of a character you love. Don’t feel bad, you can always use them for something else.

 

Now is the time to really look at your pace. Does it slow up anywhere? If so you may need to quicken the narrative by taking something out or adding some conflict in. Are parts too breathless? You may need to take out some short sentences and paragraphs. Short sentences and paragraphs lose their power if they're used all the time. It’s really about finding that balance.

 

In short: take a break before you start, be ruthless when cutting and concentrate on pace.

 

So what’s the biggest thing you’ve cut? I’d love to know. Share your editing woes below and see if anyone can help.

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