It’s something that happens to all writers in the end, whether amateur (such as myself) or professional (such as I hope to become). You’ve written this novel and though you laboured long and hard over it and you didn’t feel you could do any better … you know, somewhere inside yourself, that it’s terrible. It has to be worked on. There are scenes that don’t work, your character’s hair colour changes from chapter to chapter and you’re really not sure what colour her eyes are. You have to rewrite it.
That’s where editing comes in. There are several types of editing. There’s the first type, which is what I call the Look. You read the whole thing, or as much as you can stomach, and work out what needs to go and where you need to work on the explanations. I tend not to do this, to be honest: I go over it in my head and work it out, and the only time I read it through is before I start working on that chapter and I read it briefly. I’m not one for the Look.
Then there’s the second type, which is the Overwrite. I call it this because I set MS Word to ‘overwrite’ and then I retype it from the beginning. I have to turn that off when I’m adding in a paragraph, of course, but it’s a good way of making changes in the same document. It’s also a good way just to delete bits you don’t like. Of course it’s not always the best thing to do first as you may want to change the order etc, but it’s what I tend to do for the second draft, because it makes things better.
The third type is the Fine-tuner. That’s where you go through and tweak each sentence – and make sure, for the last time, that your character’s hair is always ginger and her eyes brown, and her freckles are in the same place. It’s usually the final type of editing, at least before type four.
That’s the Firing Squad. You give the manuscript to a friend to read – preferably one who has also read the first draft. If they haven’t read it, send that to them as well. Oh, yes, make sure you save a copy somewhere! You’ll want it later if you decide your edits really didn’t work … So give your manuscript to a friend and let them read it. They’re a reader. They’re not biased in the way that you are, and they don’t know what’s in your head, so they can tell you what would confuse your readers and what would bore them, and what really doesn’t make sense.
Then it’s to type five, which is the Insert. You follow their advice and insert everything that’s needed to make it work. It’s a bit of a misnomer, though, because you also delete and fine-tune according to their advice, but it’s a good enough name for now.
And when you’ve done that? You read it all through again (the Look), then you change bits (the Overtype), then you read it all through again … (the Look), and you change bits (the Overtype), and you Fine-tune it, and you send it before the Firing Squad …
And in the end, you might have a novel.
Now I’m not saying this is a fail-safe method. It’s not. For a start, there are so many different ways of editing. Some people try and do it all in one go, and that’s fine if that works for them. I know there are courses in editing that you can pay for which promote only writing one more draft, and apparently they work, but that’s not my thing: for a start, I can’t afford it.
This is what will work for me. When I get around to doing it. Which would happen a lot quicker if I didn’t hang around writing a blog post about editing …