Edit like you mean it

Note: This is a longer post than usual, because I go through my entire insane editing process.

It’s been a weird couple of days, but I got a chance to see a small show at the Casbah, so that was fun.

Beyond being a couple of strange days, I have finally started initial edits on my current work in progress. I thought I would share my current editing process with all of the internets.

This is an ever changing and growing system. As any process should be. Some of the techniques I’ve learned from others blogs, books, websites etc. Some of it I’ve adapted to my own quirks and lifestyle. Take out of it what you will, and make your own “dern” process. Or just read for the sheer entertainment of driving myself nuts.

-First and foremost, the work must be printed. Staring at a computer screen not only messes with your eyes, and gives you a headache, but it also isn’t nearly thorough enough. So I like to print out the whole manuscript.

-Next I divide the project into 20 page segments, and staple, and number them in order. I developed this because staring at a massive 400 – 500 page manuscript is extremely intimidating. And every time I look at a work that size, the first thing that comes to mind is; “Dear gods, It’s impossible to edit that monster.” So Instead I cut it into manageable 20pg chunks.

I focus on one of these 20 pg blocks per day. That means all of the hard-copy edit, all of the computer edit, the spell check, and formatting.

-Then I simply sit down and edit with a nice red pen, so it’s easy to see later on. I try to find all of the errors, and then change sentences around that I don’t like. Or sound awkward. (I wish I could say I do a lot of cutting as many do, but my works are usually already pretty thin on fluff. I like to say what I mean directly without too much banter. but many others will need to cut a lot.)

-After the hard-copy edit I open the word file. And go through this…

Because I constantly need visual reminders. I have written all of the digital process on cards. I post it where I can easily see it, and be reminded of it.

The first part of this is the Reformat. There is a great pdf book that smashwords has for their digital writing guidelines. It’s called Smashwords style guide by Mark Coker . It works really well for making sure that your formatting looks good, not sloppy. I write that word formating process down so I can remember it.

-Next I make the hard-copy changes to the digital form.

TAKE A BREAK…cause that part and the next part drive me nuts.

-And then there was the spell check. This part drives me insane. Partly because my spelling sucks, and partly because when I write, I turn the spellcheck off. The reason I do this is that nothing slows down my process and flow more than an irritating red squiggly line that shows up under words. This drives me batty. So instead of going bonkers I just turn the thing off. But of course this means I have to come back and fix it now.

As part of the spell check process I integrate the search for repeated words, and common spelling mistakes like there, their, where, were, feet, feat. That sort of nonsense that spell check won’t pick up.

After spending the better part of a month doing this, I should have a somewhat respectable product.

-At this point it should be rid of all of the embarrassing errors, and ready for the beta readers. Beta readers are those special friends that will tell you where your project sucks, and why. This is very important. I would never want a Beta reader who found nothing wrong with my project. I want a reader who is brutal and harshly honest. Please, please, please tell me where it sucks, so I can fix it. Because it will never be ready unless all of the suck is out of it.

This particular part was hard for me to get used to at first. But it is essential. A writer must be able to take the harshest criticism at this stage. Not get pissed off, and then figure out how to fix it. I have two honest Beta readers. They will be absolutely straightforward with me. They won’t bullshit. They will tell me what they don’t like and why.

My third Beta reader is basically the copy editor. He is an excellent grammarian, which I am not. I print him a hard-copy, and he takes his multitude of colored pens, and marks the hell out of it.

-Then I get to rewrite and fix it again. Starting at the beginning of this process, and working through it again.

-After all of this I print another hard-copy and read it again. And maybe again.

At this point I’m pulling my hair out from frustration, constant criticism and reading, and staring back and forth from computer screen to page. Now I need a drink…

But I love it. (well the being a writer part of it.)



3 Comments on “Edit like you mean it”

  1. Laura says:

    OMG. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t get through this post. I really am interested in the process other people use to edit, but golly, could you edit your blog posts, too? It was just so darned repetitive, with so many unnecessary words and errors, that I couldn’t bear to finish it. Sorry. But good luck with your manuscript.

    • wtgeorge says:

      Thank you so much for your criticism. (and I am being honest, not sarcastic.) Like I stated, I do need all of the criticism I can get. Not only that, but it gives me fuel, and helps to push me in the right direction. So again, thank you.

  2. Just throwing out here that I like the detail you put in to your process. A lot of the writing technique books that are still in transition between the digital age and the physical age miss out on recognizing the strengths both posses. I like your ideas presented here and will, most likely, try turning off my spellcheck while I am working. I never realized what a bother it was until I thought about it following your post.

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