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No arguing: share your editing method(s) (1 Viewer)

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
FIRST:
This thread is about editing - not plotting or writing the drafts or anything else.
SECOND:
We all have our own methods of editing - and none are bad or wrong - they're ours and they work for us. No no criticizing or arguing about what's best.
THIRD:
This thread is for those of us with a few published books to describe how we go about editing our work. If you use a professional editor, say so, and tell us what types of editing they do for you. If you're a hybrid (me raising a hand), describe your steps before and after getting input from your editor.
FOURTH:
I'll say again: no arguing. The method of creating art is unique to the individual, what works for one probably won't work the same for others. No one is wrong.

My method:
I use Microsoft tools - Word and Excel.
With the first draft done, I open a fresh Excel worksheet. Transfer my character names and their particulars (being sure to include even the minor characters), along with information about the world they live in on separate sheets.
On a new sheet, I then create a list of chapter names (in order) in an Excel column, and if you know their word count, make note of it in an adjacent column.
NOTE: For the first four editing passes each chapter lives in a separate Word file - if you do it otherwise, you'll have to modify this part.
Each editing pass has two phases - first, I read silently, and the second I let MS Word's 'Speak' read it back to me. At the end of each pass I run Grammarly (the free version the plugs into Word) to roughly check the punctuation (I flub up on commas a lot).
As mentioned earlier, I do four editing passes with the chapters separate, then at least another four with them rolled together in Amazon book template (it's a word file you can download). I'm a little weird in that I try to get the paragraph breaks such that lines aren't orphaned when moving from an odd number page to an even number page (that's just me being weird though).
Several things are happening as I do this. First, I'm looking to eliminate wordiness, awkward phrasing, and making sure to check the definition of words I don't use often (to be sure they're used correctly).

As I move through the edit, on each chapter I make note of stumbling points - such as how often something is repeated (sometimes you want to do a bit of that so the reader remembers it), where a character is, apartment numbers, colors of cars - things that can be repeated incorrectly. I also make sure each character is described correctly, and - if important to the character, what they're wearing. What I'm looking for is consistency. I also check my initial notes about a character to keep on track.

When I finish with each chapter I make note of the new word count in a separate column - and I often write notes about happenings in the chapter. You don't want your character remembering something that hasn't happened yet... unless they're clairvoyant. Editing often feels like sorting to me.

Toward the end, when the writing is as good as I can make it, I send it to my editor - and she does a substantive edit for me.

That's all I have for now.
ETA
My wife and I were heading out for dinner as I wrote the above, so I didn't have much time. Now I'd like commenton on something mentioned.

I'll use the knife analogy. If your character is going to stab someone with a knife in scene 5, he/she must have it in possession in scene 4. That's a really bad analogy, but you get the point I hope. You have to find a way to track actions, movement, and even possessions, because if you don't you'll end up the dreaded - 'then a miracle happened climax'. For example, in Inception (my SV techno thriller) something volatile is stored on a powered server - if the power fails it will be deleted. The server battery is rated for 1 hour, but in the early chapters it's explained that engineering usually adds a 'safety factor' to the design. For example, an elevator that's rated at 2500 pound capacity on the sign inside can actually carry much more than that. So, at the climax the MC gets the server to a power station in 1 hour, 10 minutes. But when another character worries that the data has been deleted, the engineer restates the safety factor that was explained earlier and all is well - if the safety factor hadn't been foreshadowed that would be a 'then a miracle happened climax'.

The way I catch problems like this in editing is to create a two dimensional matrix in Excel - with chapter names and numbers in the left most column, and possible problems to track in a horizontal row at the top or bottom. When I encounter an explanation of technology I place a * in the intersecting cell, and know I'm covered - this also covers OVER explanations, too many *'s means that I made it too obvious.

There are a ton of things to track, and all of them are unique to your story. For me, using a matrix in Excel works best.
 
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Sinister

Senior Member
STEP ONE: Print it out and read it, preferably with a red marker.
STEP TWO: Read aloud, like you're narrating for an audiobook. If there are parts that are confusing to read aloud, then that's a major red flag.
STEP THREE: Revisions. What could be said better? What could be made plainer? What is not necessary? Was anything vital left out? Are the details consistent from scene to scene? What about tone, narrative and tense?
STEP FOUR: Repeat step one and two on the new revisions.
STEP FIVE: Find someone you trust to read it and see if they got out of it what you wanted them to.
FINAL STEP: Wait a couple weeks and reread.

-Sin
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I do a lot of editing as I write.

* I typically go back and reread the last scene before I start writing in my next session. That refreshes my memory on the current action and helps me reestablish voice. Of course, If I see any booboos I fix them.

* For my last few novels, I read them to my wife a scene or two at a time as I'm writing. Of course, if I see any booboos I fix them.

* Once I've finished the rough draft, I do a read through. I'm looking for continuity errors, anything I thought I might have included that I didn't (which might leave a question for the reader or a plot hole), any poorly crafted sentence, and: Of course, if I see any booboos I fix them.

*
Then I load the entire manuscript into my proofreading app, which parses it into individual sentences. To proofread, the app gives me one sentence at a time, at random. This helps to focus on each sentence all by itself. Most errors missed in proofreading come as a result of one of three things: (1) getting bored with the text-this is now a few times through it for me, (2) getting interested in the text-hey, I write fun stuff ;-), or (3) losing mistakes in the middle of longer paragraphs. None of those can happen reading sentences at random.

During that process, the app flags copulas, homophones, cliches, glue words, redundant phrases, superlatives, adverbs, and overworked words. These things don't always need to be corrected, but I give a list of them so I'm aware. For part of this, I used an extensive database I bought a few years ago which lists the most common 100K words used in the English language along with frequency of use and part of speech. It also breaks the language out into fiction, journalism, and non-fiction ... which each have different frequencies of use. Plus, it has US and UK versions of the database. That's what allowed me, a few months ago, to blog that people in the UK smile less often than people in the USA. LOL

To the right of the sentence edit box, I list the five sentences before and after the current sentence, because sometimes you need to examine it in context to know if it has something wrong. There are also checkboxes by each those other ten sentences, so if they are very short, I can look at them, then go ahead and check them off and not have them cycle through the edit box. I can also select one of the context sentences to be the next one in the edit box, instead of a sentence at random. So if I happen to spot an error in one of those sentences, I can go ahead and correct it without having to wait for it to cycle in.

The app flags every sentence changed during proofreading. Once I've proofed every sentence, the app bumps a revision number, and I go through the process again for each sentence I changed. That's because I'm as likely to introduce a typo as I correct a sentence (especially if I rewrite a longer sentence) as when I first wrote it. That process repeats until I have made no changes to any sentence. Then I export the document to an RTF file, load it in Word, and save it as .docx.

* I do one more read through. I'll generally catch a few more things, and that's because I need to use shorter sessions in my proofreading app. I tend to be obsessive when using it. I should stop when I tire, but I don't always.

* After that, it's time to format the manuscript to make it pretty and ready to publish. While I retain things like heading and paragraph tags, bold and italics when I import to the proofreading app, I can't maintain more complicated formatting structures and still get an accurate parse into individual sentences, so I do any complicated formatting as my last step.

* My final step is to create the Table of Contents, and make sure it's formatted correctly.

If anyone else would like to use the proofreading app, contact me privately and I'll get you set up. It's free to use. I might advertise it as a paid product at some point in the future, but it will always be free to anyone on WF who starts using it before I do that.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Here's my 24-step program

0) have some thoughts
1) Write a few sentences about them
2) Edit them, cut them, or fix them
3) reread them and fix
4) move on to next batch of sentences until book is done
5) leave for a couple of weeks
6) go back to book and start reading as a reader
7) if there are issues, worries, or things I dislike, stop after a few sentences, and return to step 2
8) Otherwise, continue until I either finish or get to some problem, in which case go to step 7
9) if I finish, then leave for a couple of months
10) start reading as a reader
11) put my favourite bits up for critique
12) put bits I'm not sure of out for crit
13) continue reading
14) finish
15) get betas
16) act on select beta feedback (cut, fix, move)
17) get more betas
18) act on select beta feedback (cut, fix, move)
19) get cover done
20) reread, last edits
21) bang on on social media about my "writer's journey"
22) format
23) publish
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
1) Write a chapter
2) Review the chapter quickly to see if I screwed the pooch on any of the big ticket ideas. If all is well, I move on. If not, I make changes.
3) Write the next chapter
4) Repeat 2
5) Finish manuscript then do an overall review and edit
6) Do a dance, pound chest and declare myself the greatest author on Earth
7) Confidently hand manuscript to wife who is generally holding her red pen already
8) Walk away pissed off at all of the red ink on my masterpiece
9) Sulk for a few days before taking a look at what she said and following her advice
10) Again, marvel at my awesomeness before I print the manuscript and suddenly realize I made tons of errors after physically reading the pages
11) Update files and again find more errors and fixing them
12) Read the manuscript again and find tons of places I could improve the prose
13) Repeat 12
14) Repeat 12
15) Repeat 12
16) Finally confident enough to hand a print out to my wife again
17) She gives stamp of approval, renewing my ego... this time far less inflated
 
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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Here's my 24-step program

0) have some thoughts
1) Write a few sentences about them
2) Edit them, cut them, or fix them
3) reread them and fix
4) move on to next batch of sentences until book is done
5) leave for a couple of weeks
6) go back to book and start reading as a reader
7) if there are issues, worries, or things I dislike, stop after a few sentences, and return to step 2
8) Otherwise, continue until I either finish or get to some problem, in which case go to step 7
9) if I finish, then leave for a couple of months
10) start reading as a reader
11) put my favourite bits up for critique
12) put bits I'm not sure of out for crit
13) continue reading
14) finish
15) get betas
16) act on select beta feedback (cut, fix, move)
17) get more betas
18) act on select beta feedback (cut, fix, move)
19) get cover done
20) reread, last edits
21) bang on on social media about my "writer's journey"
22) format
23) publish
1 - 14 sounds oh so familiar. Using this method, how long did it take you to finish your first published book?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Would you mind to elaborate on this, such as how you utilize the data? Is it simply to visualize everything in a different way?

I had a vaguely similar character outline that I maintained for awhile (in bullet point format, however) where I listed things like skills/resources/known affiliations/etc. but I stopped because I never found a good reason to keep at it.
Sure.
Editing is A LOT more than just cleaning up prose and punctuation - it's about making your story work and seem realistic.
Before we get to the 2D matrix though, lets talk about consistency, and much of that shows up in the planning of the story.

Each of my characters are developed on an Excel page. I list their name, age, if relevant sibling and parents names, description, likes / dislikes, and how they speak. By speak, I mean favored words / phrases they use - do they say 'yes' or 'yeah' or 'yup' ... ? That gives them a unique voice. I also list how they dress, what car they drive, where they live; if a house not the full address but a description of the abode and the neighborhood, if it's an apartment include the apartment number. I often have floor plans of houses / apartments ... anal retentive when it comes to planning, so you might let that pass.

In the planning stages I also define the world - the year, political climate, etc. In Inception (my WIP) the year is 2042, the Green Deal has been enacted so most cars are electric and can run on autopilot.

SO - in the editing phase, I check for consistency with what I planned. If new characters showed up (they usually do) during the draft, I add them to the list.
So first on a clean Excel sheet I create a 2D matrix, which is a grid, with columns and rows. In the left most column I list the chapters, and across the bottom I have the attribute I want to track. If it's just an event, or an explanation of how something works, I'll use a star (*) in the intersecting cell to indicate it happened. If I'm looking at a character, I might put 'c' for describing their clothing and 'd' for a general description, or a letter code for a location if they've moved.

During edit, as I go through each chapter I mark up the matrix. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it helps me find plot holes, and keep the story consistent.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
I use Scrivener for minor editing during the writing, and then Microsoft Word for the bulk of the actual editing phase, because I like the notes and tracking changes features it has the most.



The First Edit - Content Edit
-------------------------------
When I've got a complete manuscript, both my own or other people's, I do a content read-through. (After all, you'll waste tons of time editing the spelling and grammar if you then change the content and re-write some of it.)

I begin looking specifically for
-Plot/story points
-Characterization/story arc points
-Pacing
-The order of information (which I notice some people seriously neglect since the order of info can reinforce things or go the opposite way and cause confusion, or let things you want noticed get brushed aside)
-Logic/Inconsistency Errors

I will not only read each chapter again, but I will also then forgo the actual book, look at the basic points of what happens in the chapter and play it out in my head (even act it out sometimes,) and this sometimes catches out the logic/plot hole errors. Especially for characters with plans or specific action-orientated scenes whereby being "in" the scene helps me see things that might hinder or help them. Doing this also ends up making me think up some off-the-cuff dialogue that fits the moment, that also ends up getting added in.

I then write notes for what needs to be added, what needs to be cut, alterations and thoughts, and compile a chronological bullet-point list for me to work through. My editing process is largely about making bullet point lists and reducing them in size with each new edit.


I then send this version off to my writing partner and another who alpha reads for me for feedback.


**If there's any chapter that has a lot of action or placement of people/objects that require spatial awareness understanding, I'll put the chapter online to ask for feedback, so I can try to maximize understanding and clarity before I give it out to beta readers.



The Second Edit - The General Edit
---------------------------------------
This is more a revision of the Content edit, where I see how the changes make me feel, as well as making my life easier in the SPAG edit by actively looking for the most noticeable spelling/grammar mistakes in parts of the book I think are unlikely to be changed.

I take on board all the notes from my writing partner/alpha readers. I find I tend to agree with 80-85% of their thoughts and make changes based upon them.

I make a new bullet point list, with my thoughts on improving certain parts, the alpha readers points I agree with and then write that second edit.



The Third Edit - Beta Reader Input
--------------------------------------
With the second edit in my hand, one that is looking polished enough for human consumption, I then put out the call for beta readers to add to my 2 alpha readers and 2 beta readers that I swap with. I try to get at least 3-4 more people to read beyond those 2 beta readers that I already work with because I like getting a broader opinion from people who both like and possibly don't like the book's genre. If I can also get good feedback from those who don't usually read that genre, then I know I'm hitting that "good book" mark.

As before, I then write a bullet point list, but I consult with my writing partner on this list and decide which beta reader suggestions had merit, and which didn't.
I then whittle that list down to the ones we both agree on and make changes.



The Fourth Edit - Line Edit and SPAG super-scrutiny
---------------------------------------------------------
I'll not only go over this in Grammarly and MS Word, but i'll blow up the text to 10p larger and read everything extremely slowly to make sure even colloquialism spellings and other oddities that neither the aforementioned programs catch. (You'd be amazed how much SPAG you catch when you just read stuff in larger/altered font size. There's a scientific study about why it happens, if I remember.)

I'll then leave it a week, and try to do the same again for peace of mind.



The Fifth Edit - Last Read as a Reader
------------------------------------------
I'll then leave it a while, prepping all the promotional stuff and campaigns and artwork and stuff, formatting, and come back to it for one final read-through - trying my hardest to just turn my analytical brain off and reading it as a reader.

At best I find I have a bullet point list of 2-3 items that are the most minor of minor nitpicks. Anything after that is nothing more than pedantic, George Lucas Star Wars "remaster" territory (Han shot first!)


Then I ask myself "Would I pay for this?" say "Yes" and then send it out into the world.
 

Mr.Mingo

Senior Member
Read aloud. First. Last. Always...even if I sound like an idiot, (in which case I need to edit because I sound like an idiot.)

There's honestly no better way to find stuck points and bad wording than to read it aloud. This would be my number one, go-to method for editing and improving my own work or someone else's.

One thing I do tend to do is get all my story or poem out in one session, then wait on it a bit for edits. I swoop in and bite little chunks out of it here or there over a few days, dealing with obvious problems at odd intervals. Then I leave a work I want to submit for publication for some time. If I come back to it and it's still worthwhile to me, I take some more stabs at revising with my new perspective with the given time. I think looking with fresh perspectives even at your own work can improve it beyond what you would normally get after the initial completion editing.

This method is, of course, the shelving method, but I do like to periodically hit the work in between the main revising sessions just to pluck out some obvious problems or add more elements. The middle revising is more akin to writing than actual revising and editing.

If that makes any sense.
 

LoveofWriting

Senior Member
1) Write a chapter
2) Review the chapter quickly to see if I screwed the pooch on any of the big ticket ideas. If all is well, I move on. If not, I make changes.
3) Write the next chapter
4) Repeat 2
5) Finish manuscript then do an overall review and edit
6) Do a dance, pound chest and declare myself the greatest author on Earth
7) Confidently hand manuscript to wife who is generally holding her red pen already
8) Walk away pissed off at all of the red ink on my masterpiece
9) Sulk for a few days before taking a look at what she said and following her advice
10) Again, marvel at my awesomeness before I print the manuscript and suddenly realize I made tons of errors after physically reading the pages
11) Update files and again find more errors and fixing them
12) Read the manuscript again and find tons of places I could improve the prose
13) Repeat 12
14) Repeat 12
15) Repeat 12
16) Finally confident enough to hand a print out to my wife again
17) She gives stamp of approval, renewing my ego... this time far less inflated

That is pretty much what I do, and I like that.
 

voltigeur

WF Veterans
I write in WORD then move to Scrivener once this basic editing is done.

After I finish writing a scene or chapter I put it away and keep going. I don't come back until 5 days (sometimes 3 or 4 depending on my writing group meetings.)

I do a "second read" to catch all the stupid stuff. If a passage doesn't make sense to me and wrote it then it won't make sense to the reader.

I search the text for the word "was". Every where there is the word was is likely a place you are telling not showing. I make sure they are eliminated unless I make a decision to tell. (Whole other discussion there.

If you are new I also suggest searching for the term "ly". (Make sure you are not over using adverbs)

Next to last step is to run it through Grammarly and catch stupid grammar mistakes.

The last step is take it to my in person critique group, incorporate suggestions. (Where I agree with them.) This is a group I have been working with for years and they know enough about what I write about and my characters that most suggestions deserve serious consideration.

Anyway that's how I do it.
 
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