The MANY steps of editing

Editing. That dreaded E word… There’s no one who dislikes editing more than writers who spend all day writing their baby (books/stories/etc.) So today I’m going to tackle this utterly horrific topic in 7 relatively easy steps. Keep in mind that these editing steps are something you do over a relatively large period of time so you don’t get too bogged down. You CAN also combine steps, and streamline the process in some ways (which I’ll explain later).

So let’s get started!

So you’ve finished a book eh? Congrats! You’re amazing! You finished something special, something no one else has written, something completely unique to YOU. Now that you’ve finished your baby, it’s time for some tough love. Though you may think your baby is perfect, I can tell you right now, it’s not. No ones baby is perfect. So lets get into the steps of what you should do next.

STEP 1 – The Break

  • Leave that shit alone. Take a breather. Enjoy it. Go for drinks, celebrate! You did something great, and you should be proud!
  • Give yourself a few days to forget what you’ve written. Whether it be a day, two days, a week or a month, give yourself TIME. I know you may want to jump into things right now, but DO NOT DO IT. You will gloss over SO MUCH.
  • In my humble opinion, you should wait at minimum 3 days. Personally I think a week is much better. A month is fabulous, but not always realistic. It also depends on how long ago you started writing this book. You may completely forget the beginning of the book by the time you reach the end!

STEP 2 – The Read Through

  • Well this one was a bit self-explanatory. Read your book through. But try to do it as objectively as possible. This read through is to pin point larger problems. Think about the characters, the plot, the sub-plots, etc, as you read through. Think about how these all work, and if they could be better.
  • Once you read through, you should have a list of these bigger problems. (Yes you need to make a list.)


STEP 3 – The Passes

  • Now that you have your list of problems, group them together by category. i.e. world building, character development, etc.
  • Do one pass for each problem. This lessens the load and the work. This also makes sure you CONCENTRATE on each and every problem by itself.
  • This all takes time, and by the end of it you may be sick of your book. But if you are, that just means you’re on the right track.
  • Tip: This may be an aggravating process, but if you focus on one area at a time, you won’t be tempted to fix every little detail you see – especially in situations where you may need to remove and rewrite large parts. This way you aren’t wasting your time fixing things that may get removed or changed completely.

STEP 4 – Betas & Critique Partners

  • I bunched these two together because everyone has their own way of doing things. I personally send off my work to betas and critique partners at the same time. That way when they all come back to me, I’ll have very different types of feedback all across the board. Plus, when feedback lines up, you KNOW it’s a problem and is worth fixing.
  • Once you’ve sent off your book for feedback, it’s time to play the waiting game. But gosh darn it, you’ve been SO busy already, so it’s time you take a break. Sit back, and wait it out. In the mean time, start thinking about your next project to keep you busy!
  • When your feedback does arrive, read it all, and read it carefully.
  • Now how was that? Hate your readers? Love them? Want to crawl into a hole? All of those are pretty honest and regular reactions.
  • This is why you are NOT going to edit yet. You heard me. LEAVE THAT SHIT ALONE.

STEP 5 – Back to it!

  • Now that you’ve had a break for a couple days, go back to your critiques/beta comments. Read them again. Go through everything you agree with and everything you don’t. If you don’t agree with more than half of what everyone is telling you, the problem might not be your book, it might be you. You might be too close to your work still. If this is the case. Step away for another few days. Then come back.
  • Once you’re ready, compile all the edits you need to make.
  • It’s best to separate these into steps. All plot and character problems are big issues. Fix them first.
  • Re-read.
  • List any remaining problem areas. Fix accordingly.
  • Take a deep breath.

STEP 6 – Revisions

  • If you haven’t noticed, line edits have not come up yet. That’s because you shouldn’t have been bothering with them while you’re rewriting and editing all the larger issues. If you did, I bet you see how pointless it is now, especially if you spent SO much effort doing it, only to remove the entire section. Lessons learned I hope.
  • Now that you’re starting your revisions, all major issues should be dealt with. This is the part where you’re going to compile all of your CPs line edits into one document. Once you have all their notes present. EDIT AWAY MY FRIEND!
  • When you’re done with that mess, I’m sure you have some frequently used words that your CPs have pointed out. Ctrl F. Type in that word. For example, I use “was”, WAY TOO DAMN MUCH. See how many times you use that word. If it’s a word like “was”, which you should not use too often (thanks Liz!), delete and rework AS MANY AS YOU CAN. Go crazy and edit that shit out, because you don’t need it!
  • So to recap, Control F, find your words, re-read, re-edit AND DESTROY.

STEP 7 – Make that baby shiiiiine!

  • It’s time guys. Your final edit through. If you don’t hate me already for the rest of this, you’re an awesome person. This last step is an easy one.
  • This edit through you’re looking for grammar, punctuation, more word use, spelling and any awkward sentences you may have missed.
  • Don’t rush, just enjoy the work you’ve done so far.
  • So polish that baby, and make it shine!


One final tip to mention: there should be some time in between every step, not just final write and editing (or CP feedback and editing). This ensures that every edit you go through, you go through with a fresh pair of eyes, and aren’t just glazing over as you go.

I’ll be expanding a little more on the different editing processes I’ve gone through, and what I’ve used for each of my books. But I will be doing this in a Youtube video so I can talk my face off. (hehe)

In the mean time, I’d love to know how you edit. Is it similar or completely different? How much time do you spend between your edits? How long is the editing process for you?
Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, and stay classy internet!

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