Editing is Just Like Cleaning House.
(No wonder I hate it!)
Got the editing blues?
You’ve written “The End” either on the page or in your mind. Are you feeling a euphoric sense of relief and accomplishment? Or a sinking feeling of despair because the worst is yet to come—the dreaded edits! If the second describes where you are with your writing, then you have a lot of company, myself included.
I’m having people over to my house tomorrow night to play bridge. My writing will be set aside today because I have to clean. Never being one to avoid doing things the easy way, I plotted just what had to be done. No need to worry about things they’d never see, right? It occurred to me that the dreaded tasks of editing my novel and cleaning my house have a lot in common, a rather depressing realization since I hate cleaning.
I decided the best way to move forward with either task was to have a plan. Just as I wouldn’t vacuum a room before I dust, I’d have to tackle editing in an organized manner in order to save myself from endless do-overs.
1. The absolute first thing - Have the right tools and cleaning supplies at your fingertips: Dictionary, thesaurus, red pen, notebook, any edit notes you made while writing your book.
2. Pick up the clutter - Go through your manuscript and note any glaring problems. Fix spelling, grammar, typos, and conflicting details or (my personal downfall) consistency in character’s names, which also includes spelling their names consistently. During this read through, keep lists of anything in your story line that needs work. If you haven’t already done so, make character lists.
3. Decide what has to be done – Separate the lists you’ve made into categories. Now read through your book, preferably out loud, for flow, plot, interest, etc. Were the things you noted necessary changes?
4. Clean house – Make critical revisions based on your notes and your read through.
5. Save the heaving cleaning for after the party - Only when you’re satisfied that your work flows, and your grammar, spelling, and typos are corrected, is your manuscript ready to send to your professional editor and beta readers. If you’ve done your housekeeping well, your final revisions and clean-up will be as smooth as a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
This list I’m offering is a simplistic approach, designed to help you get started on a what feels like a monumental task. If you need a more detailed advisory, I’d recommend picking up a book on editing. One I’ve used is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and David King.
I believe it’s vital to invest in a professional editor and proofreader. You’ve put a lot of precious time and effort into your book—don’t let it down by publishing a flawed product. Remember, the competition is fierce and readers demanding.
Wishing you good health and happy writing,