A Bird’s-Eye Look at Editing

Easter is over, the eggs are hunted, the family has gone back to their respective houses, the fridge is chock full of ham and sundries, the coffee/tea stash is seriously depleted, and it’s time to start thinking about editing again.

I have adopted a methodical practice for editing this particular MS. First, I printed out the rough draft, and went through it with a pencil, marking specific changes as well as leaving just general comments like “awkward phrasing; fix it,” or “this whole passage sucks; change it,” or if I was feeling kindly toward myself “insert more about specific reasons here.”

Next stage is the one I’m in now, putting the suggested changes into the document.

The next stage is the one I’m dreading, and the reason I read Line by Line: copy-editing. This is the mind-numbing part where I go through and look critically at each line, pulling it apart to see if it is as concise (in case you haven’t gathered as much from my blog posts, I’m a rambly writer), understandable, and lovely as possible.

Then will come one final look-through, and then I will send it out to my beta readers. Assuming I have beta readers at that point, that is. Anyone want to volunteer for that? I’m always happy to read others’ work in exchange. (and yes, I know it’s not considered etiquette to beg for betas in this way. What can I say, I’ve been looking for a critique group for over a year now with no luck, and I’m desperate. Also, my tongue is rather in my cheek, though that doesn’t mean I’d refuse if anyone offered to become a critique partner with me!)

After the betas tear it apart and send it back and I stop sobbing into my pillow over all their suggested improvements, I’ll go through it again, fixing the problems they saw in it. Then I send it back to them, and then we decide if it’s good to go out for submission, or if it needs yet more work.

It’s a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting) process, and it’s more intensive than I’ve ever attempted with any of my other finished MSS. However, of those, one was never meant for publication, but was simply finished as “my first finished novel;” one is languishing in a closed file; and one I’ve ended up tearing apart, breaking down, and starting it again from scratch. So I’m thinking that a more severe editing process might, in fact, be helpful for me. And after reading on Shannon Hale’s blog that some of her works go through nine drafts, I really don’t feel this is too over-the-top.

I’m planning on this taking a long time. I’d been feeling an almost panicked need to get this MS done, to get it out there as quickly as possible so that by the time Carl was ready to go back to school I could maybe, possibly, be helping the family finances. However, by working so hard and feeling so rushed, I was losing a lot of the joy that characterized the first writing of this story in the first place, and more importantly, was finding it harder and harder to enjoy being with my family, because every moment spent with them was a moment I wasn’t writing.

Um, bad priorities.

So I’ve accepted that for right now, my role is not to assist in bringing in any extra money when Carl is in school, at least not through my writing. Depending on his schedule, I can always go back to retail – after eight years before my marriage, I’m pretty comfortable there – once he’s in school, and help out that way. Right now, I’m going to slow down the frenetic pace I’d been applying to the writing, enjoy it, enjoy my family, enjoy life as it is right now, and take as long as I need to in order to make this story as close to perfect as I can, while still savoring being mumsie to my two little chickadees.

What does your editing process look like?

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6 thoughts on “A Bird’s-Eye Look at Editing

  1. I'm just starting a third edit of my current WIP. And, like you, I want/need it done ASAP, but life isn't cooperating. So I'm trying to deal with it…not as successfully as I'd like though. :)I hope your edit goes well!!

  2. trekking your blog!!! just right what's inside you. what's important in blogging is what's in your heart, your passion. The more you pressure your mind, the harder you can think! hehe that's my experience… cheers!..TREK..

  3. I have been on the verge of editing a MG ms for some time and not yet jumped over, probably because I'm worried about the editing process. I know how to do it, I'm just being resistant!

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