I’m knee-deep (more like waist-deep, but I’m trying to get down to the knees) in editing/revising right now, trying to get a book polished up and ready to go for the IWSG Twitter Pitch Party on July 27th. Did I just finish writing this book? No, I finished the first draft some time ago. Did I have plenty of time, even months, to get it ready? Yes, absolutely. Did I save all this work for the last minute anyway and put myself on a self-imposed tight deadline? Of course I did! I like to think I do all my best work while sweating and screaming, after all.
The thing about editing and revising is that there’s no absolute, set way to accomplish it. When writing, you can follow a few rules. Stories tend to follow a pattern, or at least have some kind of structure, but the editing process is freehand. Every writer edits in a different way. Some do it very meticulously and take a lot of time, some do it in chunks, some are quick and efficient. I’ve found the longer I write, and the longer I edit, the better I get at it, like anything else. Also, the more you write and the more you understand writing, the less editing you find yourself having to do. After all, do it (mostly) right the first time and there won’t be much to change. There will always be something to change, of course–no one can write a perfect first draft–but you can minimize the work in post.
My editing and revising techniques have changed over time, but I have a few basic things I stick to. I have a list of words and phrases to watch out for, including ‘filtering’ words and overused words, and grammar mistakes I often find myself stumbling over. After one thorough read-through/revision, I then do a search for each of these words/phrases and try to find ways to eliminate, change, or fix them. When that’s done, I do a second read-through to see how everything flows, now that it’s all ‘technically’ correct. This may sound simple and straightforward, but depending on how long the manuscript, it can take a few weeks (especially if I’m procrastinating). Of course, if I put my nose to the grindstone, it can take a lot less time.
I do actually enjoying editing. There’s a certain satisfaction in fixing and tidying up. It’s another chance to play with the words and make them sing. And sometimes I impress myself–what I thought was really boring, clunky, or just downright bad turns out to be pretty good, or at least not nearly as bad as I imagined.
Editing can be hellish, too. While writing is often free-flowing and fun (not to say it’s never aggravating, though), editing tends to take a lot of concentration, brain power, and meticulous work that can wear you down. By the time you get done with just one read-through you might be feeling a little crazy. And you’ve got a few more passes to go! That’s probably why it’s important to not let these things linger when you have a deadline approaching…
What are your editing methods? Do you enjoy the process, or does it drive you crazy? Have you gotten better at it over time, and find yourself with less to fix up?