Shelley Widhalm

Revision Part I, or Editing Entertainment

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on January 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

I find writing preferable to editing, but editing is part of the process of writing.

For one month, I set aside the rough draft of my novel, not daring to look at it, but I certainly have thought about it.

This week, I will begin my first of a half-dozen or more edits or revisions.

I’ve read plenty of articles about editing, such as doing a read-through for structure; identifying areas that need more detail or to be cut; and fact checking to make sure character identities and descriptions of setting are consistent and accurate for the story world.

This is all good advice that I’m going to try to heed, at least this time.

For my previous works, I read my novel start to finish several times, editing and re-editing, taking a half-year to finally say, “I’m done.”

But I don’t think I was, because my editing was a matter of reading and tightening up what I read. I read the entire manuscript through, looking for inconsistencies, any boring parts and the parts I skimmed because I was in a hurry and wanted to finish the scene. I read for grammatical errors. And I read for overall plot to make sure things made sense.

I found it painful to cut, even though I dumped most of my cuts of more than a couple of sentences into a cut file.

This time when I edit, I’m going to take a more planned, methodical approach. I’m going to:

• Revise the whole manuscript first, starting with the overall structure.
• Look for any elements that I didn’t carry through, such as a dropped idea, a scene that ended too soon or a character that disappears without explanation.
• Do a quick read to cut anything that isn’t engaging or necessary to the story, noting anywhere I start to skim.
• Make sure the pacing is compelling and right for the telling of the story.
• Do a character identity check by reading all the passages that mention the main and primary secondary characters. I’ll look for consistency, accuracy and any repetitions in their identities, backgrounds and behaviors.
• Do a revision for character, plot, setting and dialogue. I’ll remove any unnecessary backstory and make sure character histories are not provided too early in the story.
• Edit at the detail level for grammatical errors, awkward usages and repetitions.

  1. And thus begins the process where the Good becomes Great! Can’t wait to read the finished product. And don’t forget to have fun with it!

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