Thursday, April 27, 2017

A to Z: Editing Fiction - What my process looks like

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.

After nearly a month of posts on editing, I figured I should share What my process looks like.

(If I haven't visited you lately, I'm not ignoring you, I'm just running behind. I will get there.)

Your process should be whatever works best for you. Here's how I roll.

1. Finish the first draft.
2. Read the messy draft on the screen and highlight the especially crappy parts in red. Fix the obvious typos and formatting errors because they greatly distract me when doing full reads.
3. Let the draft sit for a couple days while I work on something else or take a little time off of writing - which I'm not really, my mind is mulling over what to do about those red bits.
4. Sit down and conquer the stuff in red - those are the ugly scenes, the parts where the voice needs adjusting to match the one at the end that I likely wrote months or a year(s) later, filler scenes, missing transitions, major timeline issues, anything blatantly sucks.
5. Then I take a deep breath, get my notebook and pen and read through the second draft. Jot down everything else that jumps out at me that needs fixing, while also noting character/setting details and the timeline.
6. Fix those things I noted and make sure the details match up throughout.
7. Take a break and work on something else - usually a critique of someone else's novel or read a book or three.
8. With sort of fresh eyes, read through the whole thing again, filling out that after-the-fact outline we talked about as I go. This outline is also what I use later to make my synopsis for submissions and back cover blurbs. Yay dual purpose!
9. Take a close look at that outline and fix any pacing and plot problems that became clear. Add to the setting and character descriptions as necessary - keeping in mind any word count constraints.
10. Send it off to one or more other people to read (or my critique group) and work something else writing related to keep my mind off whatever red-ink-covered feedback they are surely compiling.
11. Take a bracing drink and start fixing all the obvious things the reader(s) pointed out and ponder the suggestions I might not readily agree with.
12. If there were a lot of major changes overall, or important scenes /character actions that were altered, I may send off the whole thing or sections to a few more sets of eyeballs for another round of please-beat-up-my-story to verify I've properly adjusted those parts.
13. Run the whole darn thing through Grammarly to catch wrong or missing punctuation, missing words, wrong words and a host of other little word issues. Don't believe everything it tells you, but it's a good tool, regardless.
14. Print out the story and have my computer read it to me, making notes of typos (OMG, they still exist), phrasing and flow problem areas, missing/wrong words, and anything else that bland pseudo-human voice reveals.
15. Fix all that, then close the damned file and swear not to look at it until it goes to print because I'm so sick of it. *
16. Have a celebratory drink and go to bed...where you dream up your next story and the process starts all over.

*laugh insanely because you know, deep inside, you'll be getting feedback from an editor who will insist you go through much of this process all over again. Oh, and they'll still find typos.

How long does this process take? That totally depends on the novel and the speed at which your critique partners/beta readers get back to you. For The Last God, having gone through this process several times now:
November - January - write the complete crappy draft.
Spend most of February and March on steps 2-4
At the end of March, I sent it off to a beta reader.
Mid April I fixed the issues they pointed out and sent it off to three trusted critique partners I know will rip into the story with gusto.
Meanwhile, I'm keeping my mind off their impending feedback by blogging A to Z. Conveniently timed, wouldn't you say? Like I planned this...

Do you use any spiffy editing programs that you'd recommend?


  1. That's an exhaustive list. One thing that's indispensable out of it is the critiquing part for me - still feels to me like handing in an essay at school and opening the file that comes back feels like ripping off a plaster (gotta do it quick), but there's always going to be loads of things I'll never spot myself. CPs that you can trust are awesome!

    1. I do try to cover everything, but there are always things that fall through the cracks. Thank goodness for CPs. :)

  2. I've never heard of Grammarly! Thank you, that sounds invaluable. The process sounds familiar. Interestingly, my harshest critic is my mother.

    She's brutal.

    Also I'm with you on the visits, I'm SO BEHIND.

    A to Z Challenge: Wolf

    Isa-Lee Wolf

    A Bit 2 Read

    1. Glad (or sorry?) to hear I'm not alone in being behind on visits.

      My kids have no issues with pointing out my mistakes either.

  3. I did not know about Grammarly either. Using spell check only finds questionable spellings. It doesn't determine context. If you type "them" when you mean to type "then," it will recognize either word as correct. I've had to re-read my story so many times to find mistakes such as these.

    1. It is handy for that! Though there will always be things best caught by reading out loud.

  4. That was interesting. I use Grammarly too--and don't believe everything they tell me. I also use Autocrit (same forbearance)

  5. Hey, you're ahead of me. I go through basically the same process, but the whole cycle for me on my last book took 18 freakin' months. I'm not that slow, I just have really limited time.

    I like using text-to-speech software to read it back to me. I catch a lot of stuff that way.

    W - Winnie the Pooh and Canada Too

  6. This is a great post. Everyone's process is a little different, but yours sounds really effective. For my last manuscript, I actually edited the prior day's work each day (along with additional first draft writing). That made going into the editing process easier, since the full first/second draft didn't have those glaring errors that make me crazy (and like you said, distract from the first full read).

  7. Perfect timing for A to Z for you! Thank you for your list. It will be handy for me one day when I complete a book.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Water. Clean Drinking Water

  8. Hi Jean - this is a thorough post I'm sure many will take and note the points you made re their drafts - great help it will be too ... cheers Hilary

  9. Editing is such a challenging process. I am currently editing my memoirs which I finished in November 2016, and I am dragging my feet through this first editing stage.
    Thanks for visiting What did he say?


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