This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
by Anna Bell
As a writer you’re pretty much always editing. I know I certainly seem to spend most of my time tinkering with the same prose over and over again. Getting to work on a fresh, virgin manuscript seems to be a rare occurrence, which is almost a special treat (until I hit a word hump). But when it seems like you’re almost eternally editing, how do keep yourself going?
For me, editing goes in the same types of waves of confidence, like when I’m writing a first draft. Sometimes I feel like I’m merely reading the novel and I almost forget I’m supposed to be polishing. Whereas other times I seem to be able to hit the delete key with such abandon that it’s like I’m walking through an overgrown forest hacking away at the undergrowth. To keep me on the straight and narrow, I have to be in the right frame of mind which, for me, is all about being bold and brave, and having a plan.
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When I’m editing in mouse mode (fearful of cutting anything), I get quite attached to certain paragraphs and sections. These are bits which might be beautifully written or have particularly witty jokes that I really don’t want to get rid of. Yet, when I’m in man mode (think He-Man with sword) I might wince, but I ask myself whether the paragraph or section is adding anything? Does it fit with the characters and the story? Does it move the story along? And if the answer is no, then it has to go – perfectly crafted or not. I do always cut and paste cut words into another document, and tell myself I’ll use it somewhere else one day (but I never do). Almost without fail, I don’t miss the deleted section on the next read through.I also get blind sighted by familiar territory; I get to know the manuscript forwards and backwards and am so used to what is on the screen in front of me, I don’t change things. I can almost recite the words by heart and therefore everything seems as it should be. This is when it’s especially useful to get someone else to read my manuscript and to hear their observations. I find having their notes gives me direction for my editing and helps me to cut through that familiarity by focusing on what needs to be changed. It often also makes me approach the novel as a whole, rather than on a chapter by chapter basis.
I use momentum from the ripple effect to propel me forward through an edit, too. I try to identify what needs to be changed for the big picture. For example, changes in personality for characters or events that have an impact throughout the book. These usually then have a ripple effect, which means that if you make an adjustment in chapter one, it affects a comment in chapter two, maybe it then contradicts a paragraph in chapter four, and so on and so on. It means that I can go through the whole manuscript editing these ripples (being bold and brave), which gives me a clear focus for that round of editing.
I’ve always said that to be a writer you have to play mind games, and editing is no exception. By telling myself I’m looking for ripples, or by trying to imagine I’m He-Man or She-Ra – attacking my manuscript rather than hiding like a mouse in the corner – I eventually get through each round of edits.
What about you? How do you keep going through the editing stages?