Editing Tips and Challenge

Editing is probably the most dreaded part of writing for the majority of writers out there-submission being a whole different thing altogether. It’s all about taking apart your creation, this thing you love and have put your blood, sweat, and tears into, and tearing it apart. Once you’ve torn it apart you need to sew it back together, minus some of the prettier pieces and adding some less pretty but more functional parts. It’s hard work-harder than spitting out a first draft and even harder than spitting out an entirely new second draft.

Right now I’m editing my novella, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve reached a disheartening point. I’ve written new first chapters and now I’m actually editing things I’ve already written, which is always harder.

For this edit, my main goals are to spend more time on the subplot which will become the main plot of the second book-essentially throwing in political intrigue-to make Riana more compassionate, and to add more sounds and smells to the story. I’m hoping that along with a couple minor story changes, this will make the novella almost ready for submission.

With every edit you should have major goals. It’s hard to fix every problem with your story in one edit, and for most of us, it’s easier to do two or three edits, each one focusing on a couple of specific story issues. You should also have goals for each day of editing. Use these goals to help keep you motivated and to evaluate your progress.

Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. A lot of the time editing is much harder than writing, so you’ll need to allow more time for the edit than you did for the first draft. Only focus on editing a couple of scenes a day. Personally I like to do shorter chapters in one day and longer chapters in two. And don’t be afraid to take a day or two off once in a while-in fact I’d almost suggest taking the occasional day off to work on short fiction prompts or something similar-but don’t let yourself abandon it altogether for weeks on end.

I’ll admit, in spite of all this advice, I’m not the greatest at staying on track with my editing goals. There’s always too much to do, especially when you’ve got a big pile of homework. And you know you’ve hit writer’s block when you’re doing homework instead.

So, for all of you out there editing your projects, I’d like you to join a challenge with me. For myself, I plan to edit three chapters every week until Moonshadow’s Guardian has been edited completely. You get to pick your own amount-make sure that it’s enough to challenge you but not enough for you to get discouraged. The weeks are Friday to Friday, and each Friday I will make a post to let you know how my editing is going and to give some editing tips or links. I’m asking you to comment with your own progress and-if you’re comfortable with it-a sentence of your story.

How quickly do you think you can edit?

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on June 3, 2011, in Editing, Editing: The Hard Part, Novels, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Greetings!

    I have almost no experience editing *long* pieces of work. At the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy – I think it will take a long time to hack some of the work I have into a cogent story. ๐Ÿ™‚ Many nano-brain freezes are throughout and much plot silliness.

    Having said that – I think what I may edit (to play along at home) are my 2 plays from 2 script frenzies. I need to have a closer look at both these works and they are much less silly than my nano stuff. Having said that – I retain the option of pulling out a section of a piece and polishing it up for – well – grins and character work.

    Looking forward to this!

    Cheers!
    RP

  2. RP,

    Some books are salvageable. Others aren’t. Some books are fairly simple to edit. Others might even take years.

    I wrote a script for my drama class and I kind of like it. I’m not sure if, for me, it’s worth putting the extra time into editing it and making it publishable. But it’s a thought.

    I don’t know too much about editing scripts, but in some ways I’m sure it’s very much the same. Writing is writing after all.

    Glad to see you editing with me ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for reading,
    ~Dianna

  3. Greetings:

    I think it’s fantastic you wrote a play. Plays are so different from novels. They are the stripping away of everything so that all remains is dialogue and character. I love that … nothing to describe … just people talking (or not).

    I’m not sure how to edit plays either. My process at this point is to “run” the play in my mind or on a white board (people on/off stage), fixing spelling, dialogue. Then I make sure the right things are in the right order for the plot/tension/jokes. Then I make sure the character motivations are clean (ie are consistent).

    It may not be the way the pros do it. Having said that – I’ve spent a good portion of my life watching live theatre and have a great handle on what it’s supposed to look like so I figure that’s where I’ll start.

    Cheers!
    RP

  4. RP,

    The play is definitely a very different form and it’s harder in some ways. You want to be able to set the scene without relying too much on props. That’s why I tried to make most of my scenes simple-people leaning against walls or sitting in fields.

    The only thing I can think of is something that’s recommended for fiction but is probably a lot more useful in plays-reading your work aloud. If you can get someone to read with you, even better. It’ll show you how well the dialogue and the characterization works, and it’ll also give you a feel for how the play will look later on in its production.

    I think live theatre is important to culture. One of these days I’m going to go to Stratford to see a Shakespeare; but I’m going to hold out until they’re playing Macbeth, because that’s my favourite one.

    Thanks for reading,
    ~Dianna

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