After the First Draft, then the Editing

The end of the first draft is so exciting. Such a relief to come to a conclusion. The inevitable question once we’ve taken a breath is: What to do next?

We all know the answer:  Time to edit. Editor pic

Patricia Gussin, founder of Oceanview Publishing, offers a Five Step Program. It seems a bit overwhelming but I think we all do some or all of the same revisions – just maybe not using the same process. Each step involves a complete read of your story.

Step One :  This is the first re-reading of your novel. I think of this as the slash and burn reading. All the deadwood, the overuse of research and didactic dialogue need to be cut. Other items: check for timeline and reality, analyze any point of view changes, does the between the characters work, are any technical items like weapons needing corrections and finally, is the resolutions satisfactory.

Step Two :  This reading focuses on the senses. Analyze each scene and determine if you can enhance anything with visual, auditory, smell, touch and taste details. Also, consider adding or including dress code, gestures and habits of your characters to deepen the reader’s understanding of the character

Step Three :  I consider this the grammar police review and perhaps the most intensive and time consuming of the steps. Each sentence needs to be reviewed for style, whether they are awkward or choppy. Consider cutting down long paragraphs. Check transitions and whether pronouns are correct. Finally, look at metaphors and similes, consider the adverbs and adjectives and change out words repeating too close in proximity.

Step Four :   All the little things. Simplify the dialogue tags. Check for usage of abbreviations and conventions. Make sure all the names are spelled corrected for people, places and things. If you’ve changed a name of a character, make sure there are no stray references to the old name. Fact check people, places and times.

Step Five :   Read the work aloud. This is something I do on a regular basis with scenes. I find that I catch repetitions, clunky wording and pacing issues I find that I can tell when something is moving too fast or way too slowly. Ms. Gussin suggests reading to an audience and that would be great but it’s something I can’t always do.

My process is to work with each of the above in each scene but I can see the merits of this process I’m curious how other writers approach the editing and whether they try to handle this process by revising for all of these items at once or if they revise in steps such as Ms. Gussin has suggested.

Anyone willing to share your process? What works for you?


One thought on “After the First Draft, then the Editing

  1. I’m with you, Carolyn. I have my own method — not one I invented, just what seems natural. I edit all the time. I read back before I write, and correct (possibly even re-write) in all the categories above. For many years, I was in a work environment that required copy very fast, not leaving the time to edit in segments. It may be that training that has me editing as I do now or I may have been born with it. AlI know is that if I see a misplaced comma, an extra space, and a crummy sentence all together, those puppies are in for some changes.


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