Editing is a funny thing. There are many kinds of errors you need to look for, and many forms to the edit. Typos, misused words, flat writing, continuity errors, grammar and punctuation. Some of these things you can find just by reading the project. Some of them you will only notice when you read it out loud (especially stilted dialogue). Some of it will be a crazy mystery until your beta readers have a crack at it and start highlighting issues you overlooked through sheer familiarity.
I go through several processes when editing, whether fiction, or articles.
I read the whole thing through, making changes as I go.
I read it out loud, fixing whatever I notice.
I print it, then read it through again
I highlight problem areas and make notes all over the page.
I input the changes into the computer, then I read it again.
I read it out loud some more.
It goes on.
Of course, the whole process isn’t as simple as “spot the error, now everything’s okay”. I have hummed and hahhed and really kind of agonised over choosing the exact right word to use in certain instances. Sometimes, I lean toward using a word poetically, then wonder if it’s too ambiguous. I worry that I’m taking the creative licence too far. I debate over using two equally exciting words. I get angry when I realise I just reused the same word a sentence later. I get more angry when alliteration falls into my writing entirely by accident and I have to rewrite an entire sentence so 80% of the words don’t begin with the same damn letter! I disagree with my beta readers over suggestions to fix parts that are “technically wrong” (because the rhythmic quality of the writing sometimes suits rule-breaking), or disagree with a suggestion for a word replacement, because one word holds connotations that I don’t like. It’s complicated. It’s a delicate mix of creativity and obsessiveness.
I don’t mind editing as much as some people do, and I don’t relish it as much as others. It’s just a part and parcel of trying to do this stuff the “right way”. I’m generally okay with just writing for myself, but I also look forward to the time where I can hold an armful of my own printed books. To get there, I embrace the whole process. My writing deserves that much respect.
4 thoughts on “How many ways to edit”
You’re much more methodical about editing than I am, Ashlee. I’ve often thought I should develop some list of steps like this to follow. Rather than just reading it over and rewriting as I go, which tends to be my method.
I feel like I miss too many things if I only read it one way, which is pretty funny, really. Go with whatever works for you. If you need a process to follow, it might makes things a lot easier!
My revision process is almost entirely random. If it’s nothing but mechanics, I can have an edit done in a matter of minutes. If I’m doing something lyrical (song or poem), the revisions almost always have to happen during the composition or shortly after. If prose content needs alteration, however, a change can take hours or even days. Having sudden inspiration sometimes accelerates things, but that’s not a controllable factor.
Back when I wrote a school newspaper column (the ones I used to post on VGF), I would typically bang out a draft in an afternoon & then spend roughly an hour editing for clarity before I was happy with it.
And there are exceptions to these patterns, too. On one script, I actually went back & heavily revised a script SIX YEARS after the previous draft. One song I wrote sat in a sloppy rough form for a DECADE before I finally went back & overhauled the verses.
(This comment was revised twice before posting.)
My idea of editing my blog entries is “check it’s not incomprehensible”, and then we’re good to go. There are many types of editing for many occasions! 😀
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