Writing? No problem. There’s that burst of creativity, the joy of getting the story told. I’ve drafted two more novels over the last year and a half.
But editing? In the same eighteen months, I don’t feel like I’ve made much headway on editing the first.
Part of the problem is the difficulty in setting goals. When writing, I can aim for a certain word count every day, and make sure I hit it.
Defining a goal for editing is not so easy. I might cut more words than I add. Or spend half an hour making sure I spell a character’s name consistently or that her eyes don’t suddenly change from blue to brown in Chapter 12 and from brown to green in Chapter 37.
The task doesn’t seem to have an end. Usually it feels like chipping stone off a mountain. A little here, a little there, with not much plan and even less progress.
I’ve read all kinds of blog posts and guides for editing. They all make it sound so easy, and they all have their own system.
One author makes no less than eighteen editing passes through her manuscript. Another says if you make more than two, you must not know how to write in the first place.
So what’s a struggling novelist to do?
After discarding the giving up option, I bought a book on editing. (Yes, I actually paid money for it.)
While I’ve only been attempting to follow the advice in the book for a few days, I have to say that it’s the best editing resource I’ve found.
The difficulty has been that there are multiple levels of editing. Some people consider editing to be limited to spelling, grammar, word choice, consistency and so on.
I include refining character, dialogue, description and beats in editing. Perhaps some would call that revising.
Whatever it’s called, it has to be done. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers provides excellent guidance on how to go about it.
The book’s chapters each cover a different facet:
• Show and Tell
• Characterization and Exposition
• Point of View
• Dialogue Mechanics
• See How it Sounds
• Interior Monologue
• Easy Beats
• Breaking up is Easy to do (Paragraphing)
• Once is Usually Enough (Avoiding repetition)
Each chapter gives examples of when it’s done poorly, and when it’s done well. Many of the samples are presented before and after editing, which helps drive home the point. The chapters also have exercises to give practice in applying the principles and techniques the book teaches.
The value of this book is showing what to look for when revising, and how to improve it. Just reviewing some of the chapters made me more conscious when I read my own work, and found some glaring errors. Things I know better than to put on paper, but somehow they crept in.
In short, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a handy guide for anyone trying to improve their writing.
But stay tuned. I’m still searching for methods to efficiently revise and edit, as well as set daily goals. Maybe I’ll find a resource to help. In the meantime, Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer will be my guide.
What are your go-to editing resources? Or your tricks and techniques for getting the job done?