You’ve edited a paragraph, a chapter, maybe a few chapters, but now your manuscript is ready to go and your editor sent you back the first round of edits full of major content changes. Where do you begin?
Editing the manuscript as a whole can seem like a daunting task. Editing is a necessary evil to me. I prefer writing any day. But I’m always pleased with the end result after time spent editing.
The truth is that editing needs to be a matter of prayer before you feel tempted to knock your computer off the desk. (Kidding. Kind of.) It can feel frustrating and detailed and confining after a fluid writing process to finish your book.
Here’s the good news: If you crafted your story correctly, it should be frustrating. Just look at it as a challenge to overcome. Content edits often include tweaking details used in major story lines. You have to track each story line down and make sure your changes are consistent. If you tweak one detail, it may cause you to slightly amend a detail in another story line. I was thankful to see that my story lines were so interwoven that one change affected another but was terrified I would miss something. But don’t worry, that’s where your editor comes in to catch anything you missed. Just try to do your due diligence on the front end.
I just finished a round of edits for my second book, Shadowed. Here are some of my takeaways for a major content edit:
1) Start small.
Read through ALL of the suggestions from your editor. Weigh what she is asking. Then set the manuscript aside for a couple of days. Process the best way you can tackle the job. Pray that you will know the parts to keep and parts to cut, when to kill your darlings and when to fight.
2) Make a plan.
I found it difficult to keep scrolling through the manuscript to find all the places I needed to fix, especially when it came to juggling scenes and chapters for better time placement. Write down a knock list and cross out each item as your finish it. You will feel accomplished and know you are moving in the right direction. Even if the list is extensive, take it one step at a time. If something else comes to mind, write it down and come back to it. You can do this!
3) Take your first pass.
Start at the top and work through until THE END. Write down any questions you may have about research or editor comments. Make all the smaller changes you can make right away. For instance, I noticed I referred to an organization two different ways in my manuscript. For consistency’s sake, I used the “Find and Replace” feature in Word for an easy fix to ensure accuracy. Easy check mark on my list!
4) Attack the major problems with gusto.
It helped me to print my manuscript, make notes, and then get to work. My editor suggested some things that I struggled to pull off. However, when I looked at a clean, printed manuscript, I was able to take her suggestions with my preferences and style and make the changes something that fit the story better. I love to work with my hands, so it helped to have something to hold and mark up with a pen. It also got me time away from my computer screen, which gave me a great brain break.
5) Finish strong and pray.
Time for that final look. I try to make it my goal to tackle as many issues as possible so the next edit is easier. Send the editor any notes she may need to do her job well and help you. I learned on my last edit that sending an accompanying timeline saves LOADS of time for both you and the editor.
Finish by praying that God will use this for the process ahead and that the finished product will bring God glory. Take a deep breath, type that email, and click send. Your manuscript is changing, but so are you!
What lessons have you learned during editing? What process helps you?
2 Replies to “How to Edit a Manuscript”
Great advice, Kariss. Especially the part about covering it all with prayer. Thank you.
The process I use it similar to your and to focus on one aspect at a time. And keep notes and a check list to make sure I cover it all. When we were editing Journey to Riverbend, my editor and I had frequent contact by email and phone. The phone calls really helped to clarify and brainstorm solutions.
Kariss, I love your to “set the manuscript aside for a couple of days.” I find a little white space always helpful after my first drafts and between re-writes. Also, I find it helpful to remind myself at the very beginning of the editing process to push passed my resistance and emotional attachment to my words. Many writers become so attached to their words that they can’t take a critique of any kind. BUT I’ve also had a few “grammar cop” instructors and writing friends who seem to wield their red pens like a weapon, wounding and discouraging writers who may not understand the editing process. [Whew! I can’t believe I just wrote all of that! Oh, well! Take it or leave it … ]
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