The True Work of Writing

I mentioned on Tuesday Tidbits that I intended to post about the edits.  I’ve been asked through emails,  pm, and a few unpublished comments on blog – wasn’t ignoring them, just didn’t seem to fit with threads so I’m addressing now – how I edit.  Most of the Facebook pm comments, and emails  came after Editing Isn’t For Wimps.

There are probably as many varied styles of editing as there are for writing. If you’ve followed for any time at all you probably realize that I rarely take a direct path to anything.  It seems to be totally random things that make you wonder what in the world am I thinking or how am I ever going to tie these things together, but in the end I usually do.

Rabbit trails.  Have you ever seen a rabbit hop in a straight line to anywhere?  The hub has often said he’s going rabbit hunting if I go off on yet another tangent.  It may be frustrating for some of you and for that I apologize.  Trust me, the lines can get tangled.  So how in the world can I edit such a jumble of trails?

I use a multipass system.

  • Step 1)  Set aside finished work for at least 3 days.  I usually let it sit for a week. This allows time to clear my mind and be able to take a fresh look.
  • Step 2) Read it through in its entirety, making marks as I go.  If it’s in digital format, I have pen and paper on the desk, and jot down page number and corrections needed, but don’t actually make any changes here.  These are things like questions that I don’t feel are explained very well, notes to expand this; cut that;  clarify; check spelling; research locations and names.  I must say here that 500 to 3000 word articles were much easier to tackle in this manner.
  • Step 3) Make corrections noted in full reading. Does the story make sense?  Are the denouements tied up?  Are there any openings left for a sequel or follow-up?  (I tend to work in trilogies.)  Are my characters consistent?  Does my plot and subplots work?  Are there any holes you could drive a semi through?
  • Step 4)  This is the tedious part;

pass 1: grammar check

pass 2: chapters, breaks, transitions.  do they flow together?  Do I need more transitions, are my breaks at kep points; cliff hangers or right after a climax;

pass 3: suspension of disbelief – is it believable?  Can I suspend my disbelief to think that in the scenario I’ve set up that what I’ve written is actually possible?

pass 4:  fresh eyes.  This is where I have prereaders.  I print 5 copies of edited manuscript, or load to flash drives.  I’ve also sent digital forms to friends as well.  I give the printed manuscript in a 3 ring binder; a red, blue, black and green pen and designate what each is for.  I give them a sheet of standard grammar markings to use; and 10 blank sheets of paper for them to make notes on, asking that they do not mark up the manuscript.  After they complete this part I give them a $25.00 gift card.  I’ve used restaurant cards; Wal-Mart; clothing stores, manicure, etc.  add a couple of pieces of chocolate and a thank you card in a small gift bag.  (I’ve only had one person ever say they didn’t want to do it again!)  When I get it back, I make note of their comments and recommendations.  Sometimes I can use their comments, sometimes it’s just a matter of opinion.

The very first time I did this, one reader had hundreds of questions.  As they read they marked out questions, and added different questions.  In the end she only had five questions for me.  It was interesting to see the way I had provoked her to think ahead.  A different time, a reader asked me questions that I knew, but never added into the story.  Valid point, which is why you need someone elses eyes on them.  Sometimes the back story needs to be included.  For taking the time to read my stuff, I gave them a thank you gift.  It’s not required, just something I do.

Which leads me to my current dilemma.  My friend across the pond, Tim Wigley has been editing some of my work.  He is also a writer, and makes some very good observations.  He calls me on poor grammar, on inconsistencies, and when my characters say or do things that are inconsistent.  He pointed out at one point in Kiss Of The Dragon where I had referred to my main character as Lexy instead of Izzy.  Lexy  is main character for another WIP, Faere Guardian.  One of the drawbacks to working on simultaneous projects.

I haven’t figured out exactly how to thank him.  I mean, I really don’t see a gift card for a mani-pedi being his cup of tea.  Likewise a gift card to Wal-Mart or Ruby Tuesday’s wouldn’t work.

What do I get for a man in the UK?   Can’t exactly send him a little gift bag filled with fru fru girly stuff and chocolate!  I must figure something out, as he’s been a tremendous help to me.  Plus, I like giving gifts.  It may be just a little thing, something quirky or even something from the dollar store that I put with a card.  I think it’s important to let people know they matter!

That’s  probably way more information than you wanted.  With some things I tend to be very systematic, following a precise order.  Editing is one of them.  There is a point though that the writer must cut the umbilical cord and send their baby out into the world.  Did I mention that I tend to be an overprotective mom?

Write on my friends, write on!


7 comments on “The True Work of Writing

  1. Two things – first being I LOVE how you hand out your manuscript for beta reads and the gift card as thank you is brilliant. That is the most organized thing I’ve heard, ever. Secondly – would not a $25 Visa or American Express gift card (usually accepted the world over) be suitable for Mr. Wigley?

    You so rock! 😀


  2. send him something they don’t have in britain. I find those are the best kind of gifts for people in different countries. whenever I live abroad, I make it a point to make my gifts things they couldn’t buy back in the states.


  3. I quite like your method of editing. I may have to try and adapt your more structured passes to my own chaotic editing process ;D And I am thinking I may have to employ a certain token of appreciation for my betas as well. Great post!


  4. Not everything I do is haphazard! there is a method to my madness. Most people would probably prefer the direct route to the scenic rambling I seem to do. There are times when expediency demands efficiency, and the scenic byways are circumvent! I have a questionnaire that I give them as well, with specifics that I want addressed. If you are interested, email me or pm me and I’d be happy to share.


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