The writing process is known to have many layers, steps, sublayers, and many many drafts. The editing step in the process is no different. There are many layers and types of edits to go through, even though you may be doing them all at once. Sometimes it’s a good thing to go through each type of editing as you go through the drafts, because going through all the edits with the first draft doesn’t mean the result is the final draft.
So for this post we’ll be talking about the types of editing we all go through.
The Read Through – Overall Edits
This is the time when you look over what fits and what doesn’t. When we write longer pieces we usually write individual scenes and chapters before putting it together. What to check for here is flow and consistency though you may pick up some grammar and spelling errors on the way. Sticky notes will come in handy for this type of edit, because the margins may not be enough for all of your notes to handle. From here you write your next draft, and then proceed to a much narrower form of editing.
Beta-reading is a type of overall editing that relies on someone else to find flaws in your work. Though the first thought is having a friend read over your work, this is a bad idea. When you decide to have a beta reader it is best to go for another writer that you can trust, not someone who is just going to tell you something encouraging and not tell you of any flaws.
This type of edit is usually done before the rough draft is created. Here you are looking at the foundation of your writing, the plot itself. You have the scenes all planned out and placed into a little line but something seems off. You look at each one and wonder if it is best placed there. Take a step back. Look at the big picture. If there is a scene that appears to be better placed somewhere else try placing it there. Through this type of edit you can also figure out which scenes would be better left out. Always ask, “Does this scene add anything to the story?” If not then it’s got to go. The beauty of writing fiction is that the order of events is flexible, at least until it’s published.
Now we are starting to narrow it down. This is when you look closer at your work. If you’ve already gone through the first two types of edits mentioned, doing scene edits might be a little easier. Here you are looking at the section as it’s own bubble. In a scene/chapter edit you are looking for issues with flow, consistency, dialogue, characterization, and all of the other little details that we all freak out over when we finish a scene but push ourselves to write the next one before we start editing it.
It’s time to whip out your dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar book! Here you are reading through your work word for word and questioning it. Make sure it’s spelled right, if the exposition is grammatically correct (because who are we kidding, how many people speak perfect grammar?), or if there is a stronger word to use. Go red ink happy with this type of editing, but make sure you have enough space between the lines so you can make room for all your notes!
I hope you all have fun editing, or at least aren’t as scared as I started out being! Now let’s all take a deep breath, grab that red pen, and have at it!
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