I’m editing my WIP (work in progress). I don’t like this part of the process. It’s much more rewarding to write – to create characters and scenes and develop motivations and plots. What will this person do next? How will they overcome the obstacles and succeed in their quest or change for the better? Writing is creativity.
Editing is necessary for any written work. I have no problem editing reports or speeches or other nonfiction, but when it comes to my creative writing, I’m loath to remove anything.
This is a brief outline of my editing process:
Once I finish writing, I set it aside for a few days or weeks so I can edit with fresh eyes. The longer the piece, the longer I wait. This is tough because I want to finish the project.
After the wait, I do a thorough read through and condense the piece. I’m good at condensing. Short story writing is training me to be more concise, to make every single word count. Sometimes, however, I have trouble deleting. I may acknowledge the scene description is too long, but I like the way I’ve described things. I become attached to my characters and to certain scenes.
Next, I look at my structure:
- Does something of interest happen right away?
- Is the goal or plot clear? Is it enough to make the reader care?
- Is the main character compelling? Will the reader care?
- Does the character grow or change?
- Does every sentence move the scene or story forward?
- Have I described the setting well enough? Or too much?
Each scene needs a reason to be there. It should contain an objective, conflict, struggle, and outcome.
Then, I look at:
- Conflict and resolution
My next step is to highlight elements of the work. Tension is yellow, background is pink, setting is blue, dialogue is purple, description is green, metaphors and similes are red. This helps me see if the story is balanced.
Then, I check for redundancies. I tend to use some words too frequently, so I do a search and change some of them. For example, how many times do I have a character smiling? Instead, they could stretch, open their arms up, or hug someone. The character who keeps widening his eyes could instead stand back, breathe faster, or swallow. I often connect compound sentences with the word “but”. However, therefore, though, yet, nevertheless – these are all good substitutions. Sometimes, I split the sentence into two.
My final step is a spell check.
The steps I’ve outlined here are basic, and I’ve left some things out. There’s a lot more to it. An outside editor is also an option. I’ll talk more specifics of editing and revising in my next post.
Right now, I’m going to finish my first round of edits, then I’ll set the piece aside again before moving on to the next stage. Wish me luck.