Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it… Michael Crichton
The workshop leader looked over the group—a motley crew of aspiring and published authors seeking to learn. She arched her eyebrow and said, “The purpose of your first draft is to get the crap out. Then you can go back and write the book.” Okay, I thought, that’s an interesting way to look at it. And it actually freed me to write better.
I’ve also learned that each draft has crap in it. The goal is to have less and less in each revision. Even today, I’ll pick up my published novel, Journey to Riverbend, and see things I would change. And the published version is the eighth draft.
I don’t think there is one best way to edit. Each writer will develop his own way of editing, mostly though trial and error.
My editing process has evolved as I’ve written more, studied the craft, and learned to test approaches and keep the ones that work.
When I write, I begin the day by reading what I wrote the day before. I look for typos, adverbs, passive tense, glaring POV issues, and grammar. This also helps me get back into the flow of the story.
On Saturday, I print out the pages for that week and do a deep edit of the week’s writing, polishing and refining, cutting scenes, re-working dialogue, correcting inconsistencies from the plot or character.
Once the first draft is finished, I put it away. For a minimum of three weeks. If any thoughts come to me about the book, I put them in a folder until later. I send the story out to beta readers. At this point, I find I need at least two people to read the entire book and give me feedback to specific questions.
After three weeks, I pull out the manuscript and have my computer read it to me. And then I rewrite the story, incorporating input from the beta readers.
The second draft goes through almost the same process as the first, generally more quickly. And then it gets rewritten.
Editing is kind of like washing your hair—lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over.
There are two books I think are immensely helpful in this process: Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. And, Write Great Fiction: Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.
What techniques have worked best for you in your editing? What resources would you recommend?