Editing is the bane of many, if not most, writers’ existences. But just because it’s a long, exhaustive process doesn’t mean it isn’t a necessary one. In fact, it’s in editing that your piece goes from a first draft monstrosity to a polished, publish ready novel readers will want to stick with through until the final page.
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
― Patricia Fuller
Editing is where we rip our stories to shreds. It’s where we take them from babies we nurture to enemies we destroy. We must become hyper-critical of our own works in an effort to draw out every piece that does not serve our story, every bit that makes a hole in our plot, every detail that is unneeded or conflicting with itself. Books have been written on the subject of editing, but for most, the beginning of editing begins with one single step that nearly everyone loathes.
Most will look at “rewriting” and almost immediately read “revising”. That’s largely due to the fact that revising is not nearly as arduous and hated as rewriting is. But that’s exactly why we must do it–great things seldom come easily, and it’s never as true as it is with writing–and we must do it first (and then several more times from draft one to draft “done”) in our editing process.
Step 1: The Print Out
While you can split-screen this step, you’ll be tempted to cut and paste or edit in the original document itself, so we recommend getting an actual print out of your novel in its entirety. That means a hard copy of every word you’ve written is physically laying in front of you. Yes, it’s incredibly time consuming, and yes, that’s a lot of paper and a lot of ink, but its a small investment to make to ensure you’re editing effectively. Having it printed allows you to see your work differently and makes mistakes more apparent, but don’t bring out your red or blue pen just yet. For now, we’re going to focus on retyping.
Step 2: The Retype
Open your writing application of choice. For some, this may be Scrivener, for others it may be Word, or maybe it’s some other application entirely. Whatever it is for you, begin with a new document. You will now retype, word for word, your entire novel, from start to finish.
This may seem inefficient–after all, you already have your novel done!–but trust the process. Reading it and transcribing it allows you to catch each misstep you’ve made, both proofing errors (typos, grammatical mistakes, punctuation snafus) and developmental errors (plot holes, description conflicts, character inconsistencies) and fix them in real time. While revising may result in skimming over some of those mistakes, rewriting makes it much more difficult to miss them. When you do encounter an error, correct them in your new document. You may (ideally, you should) find yourself changing the order of your scenes, adding or deleting dialogues or beats, or switching up transitions. You will likely find that some passages became redundant as you wrote through your first draft and can be deleted, and that some things weren’t written with enough depth. Some things can be added in earlier or can be foreshadowed in earlier chapters because you know where the story is going with more clarity now. That’s okay, it’s all part of editing and will make your novel stronger.
Don’t edit your first draft. If you want to make in impactful novel that you’re going to pursue publication with, take the time and effort to rewrite it, not just revise it. Revising allows you to tell yourself “oh, it’s good enough” or skim. Rewriting forces you to consider your writing and makes every word accountable. So print it and rewrite it all. You work will be stronger for it.
How do you feel about rewriting? Have you used this strategy yet? Tell us below in the comments!
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