I’ve recently been doing a lot of editing and revising, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a group of writers that provide feedback and suggestions. During this process, however, I’ve been giving some serious thought to “editing” and how this process of editing/revising evolves over time and across writers.
Now, you may call this stage of the writing process “editing,” or maybe you prefer “revising,” like me. Some people even refer to editing as “making corrections.” Regardless of what you want to call it, the editing and revising portion of the writing process is difficult.
For me, editing is strictly grammatical and technical. When I’m “editing,” I’m correcting punctuation, diction, and syntax. In comparison, “revising” is more of a complete revision of the work as a whole. When I’m in the editing and revising portion of my writing process, I prefer “revising,” because in my own work, the grammar will correct itself when I fix the larger issue. I also usually edit on my own once the major revisions have been made.
Over the years, this process has mostly stayed the same. However, with my new writing communities I’ve had to learn new ways of taking notes, consider different perspectives, and explore various strategies of tracking changes in my documents. This has been really exciting, but also overwhelming. As I continue to work through feedback, I thought I’d share some insight on what has worked best for me.
#1: Read it like an audiobook.
This is especially helpful if you’re in the copyediting stage of your writing process. Reading your book aloud as if you’re reading it to an audience can allow you to notice technical errors. Remember, these little errors can alter how you understand the content of your writing. Also, this strategy will force you to be much more critical and aware of grammatical mistakes.
This strategy is also useful if you are trying to write dialogue or action. How we speak on paper versus in real life can be very different, but we don’t often notice this until it’s read it out loud.
#2: Code, highlight, and comment.
This strategy can be done in several ways from commenting directly on a document (or in the margins), or using formatting tools (underline, strikethrough, bold, italics), or highlighting (color-coordinate themes, characters, and plots). All of these methods are great options if you’re revising overarching parts of your writing.
I’ve used this method frequently when evaluating plot structures or character developments. When you’re working on larger projects, tracking changes can complicated, so this strategy can be especially helpful for situations like this.
#3: Reverse outline.
Similar to coding, highlighting, and commenting, reverse outlining is the process of tracking the structure of your writing after writing it. This strategy is also helpful if you’re looking at larger concerns and issues such as structure, plot, and narrative balance. You can do this by commenting on a document’s chapters to locate sections of your writing, or by taking down notes with page numbers.
Personally, I find this process incredibly helpful when I am crafting the summary or synopsis of my book/series. By summarizing little bits of information throughout the story, I can identify a clear story arc and communicate it clearly.
#4: Separate documents and sections.
If you’re working on a large series, this might be a good way to structure your time and writing. Most stories follow the traditional structure of a beginning, middle, and an end. When you break down the writing into different sections or documents (chapters, collections of chapters, or parts) it can help to compartmentalize events and actions.
By breaking down the writing into various documents it also becomes more manageable for sending your writing to reviewers. You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with a 200-page document, so sending selections and parts is more manageable for both of you.
Hope this is helpful! Comment with more strategies!