My 4 Step Editing Plan

Everybody edits/revises differently. My way is not the best way—it’s just my way. But, because I don’t know what else to write about for this blog post, I’m going to tell you how I do it.

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I love editing. You wouldn’t know it from the way I bitch about it, but I do. For me, editing is so SO much easier than writing. Fixing things is easy. Creating is hard. And even with that, upon receiving my edit letter for any of the books I’ve published, my process always begins with…

Step 1: Swear & Drink (with optional gambling)

Not even a joke. Ask the other #RWChat hosts. Every time. I read the first two paragraphs of what is usually a 10 or 11 page letter (because my editor is a sadist) and throw my hands in the air and start swearing about the impossibility of what she’s asking. Then, I indulge in an evening of surly power-drinking. If anything in the letter actually hurt my feelings, I will do that surly power-drinking while sitting at a blackjack table, recklessly impoverishing myself.

…But why though? I think it’s vital to feel the way you feel, even when you know you’re being childish. Give it a time and a place, get it out, and then put it away. So before I try to handle edits like an adult, I take a little time to hate them like an egotistical child.

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Step 2: Actually Read The Notes

With my hangover and empty checking account as a handy reminder that not all of my decisions are brilliant, I re-read the letter—all the way through this time. There may still be some swearing, but it’s internal because shouting is out of the question with a hangover. Then, I go through the MS and read the comments. There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. My editor almost always includes hilarious comments about what she loves, and this makes me feel better about myself as a writer.
  2. So I can figure out which broad scope issues were commented on in the doc, and which ones I’m going to need to keep in mind while editing.

Step 3: Make a List/Spreadsheet/Organizational Tool

With a slight ego boost and a better idea of the in-line comments, I make a document. Sometimes that document is just a notepad file, broken out into Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 with the notes from the edit letter that I need to keep in mind in each section.

If the book requires a total rewrite (that’s happened more than once), I also break my book down into a spreadsheet by scene with page numbers, POV, & a quick note on what happens. Then I color code them by whether or not they can be re-used in the rewrite, and (if yes) where they will go (Act 1/2/3). I write notes for new scenes that don’t exist yet, and do an emotional escalation chart along the side of it to remind myself how they’re supposed to feel about each other during the scene’s new place in the MS to make sure the love story arc doesn’t go all haywire while I’m moving stuff around.  

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Step 4: Dig In On The Doc

I write chronologically and I edit that way as well. In a re-write, I just…start, using my spreadsheet as a guide. I copy paste the scenes that I can, and deal with the notes within those scenes as they come up. I keep the act notes up on the left side of my screen and look them over before I call a scene done to make sure I caught everything I needed to.

In a non-rewrite, I go comment by comment and fix them. If there is something I don’t have the brainpower to deal with right then, I add it to a list with a note about what needs to be done and the doc page number so I can come back to it later.

When all my notes are crossed out, all the scenes in my rewrite spreadsheet have turned grey (the color for things I don’t need to care about anymore), and all the comments in the doc are resolved—I’m done.

Note: I’m a massive procrastinator, so I lose at least a week each time sitting on my couch feeling sorry for myself. My edits are usually on a tight timeline anyway, so this means I am doing my edits & rewrites on a very very short deadline. (Read: 3 or 4 days.) I’ve tried to change this about myself, but so far no luck.

My last big round of edits, instead of losing sleep and breaking my brain to get it done (the old method), I divided my total pages by the number of days I had to get it done. Once I was done with my pages for the day, I stopped. I slept normal, ate normal, took breaks. And for the first time ever, I was not turning in my edits at 3 in the morning of the day after it was due. I got them in at a reasonable hour, feeling like a reasonable person.

The bottom line for editing is: make a realistic plan—however realistic looks to you—and honor it. Not more, not less. If you do, you’ll finish with a completed revision AND your sanity.

 

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