Editing Tips

So you just got your first set of edits on your manuscript. Congratulations!!! You’re officially in the trenches with the rest of us. 🙂 Currently, I’m knee deep in edits on 1 novella, awaiting edits on a second novella as well as 1 novel, and I’m writing my 13th book. The To-Do list of a writer is always long!

Anyway, back to editing. Yay! One of my favorite parts of the writing process. I love this stage because now is when I really make a book shine, with the help of an excellent editor, of course. The end product is *always* better than it started out. That’s why having a good editor—one who sees your work, really gets your style and voice—is so important. (If you’ve gotten an editor that you don’t click with, don’t panic, there are tips for dealing with that too, but that’s a topic for another day. Rest assured, you will survive and so will your book! For now, let’s just assume all is well in editor/author world, since it usually is.)

You’ve gotten an email and it’s from your new editor. Yay! But also holy shit! Excitement, nervousness, self-doubt, nausea 😉 — It’s all normal! You swallow your nerves and open the file. And then you want to faint.

Maybe you see a mountain of track changes on the righthand side of your page. Maybe you see a bunch of colored and underlined words. Maybe the first sentence after your Chapter One heading used to be the first sentences under your Chapter Two heading.

Holy edit monster!

Breathe. It will be okay. I promise.

Here are a few easy steps I use to tackle edits, even the really difficult ones:

  • Breathe. No really. Take a breath. This is all a part of the process. Every single writer in the history of writing will have to deal with edits at some point or another and they all lived to tell the tale after. You will too. Okay. Moving on.
  • Read any big picture notes you were given from your editor. Maybe your hero has moved past alpha and into asshole territory. Maybe a secondary story line just clutters up the book and doesn’t add anything worth keeping it. Maybe there’s a gap in the plot you didn’t realize or continuity problems. There are any number of big picture issues that could come up. Take a few minutes to read the notes,  more than once if you have to.
  • Walk away. You might be upset. You might think your editor has popcorn for brains. You might think the changes are too big and you can’t possible do them! Just walk away for a bit. Let that big picture stuff sink in. Those notes are going to marinate in your brain while you do other things. In an hour, or a day, you might even see that your editor is right. Holy shit! LOL. It happens. 🙂
  • Move on to line edits. That’s all the track changes bubbles you see on the right side of your once-beautiful document. Work through those changes as you’ve been told to by the editor. Every publisher has a slightly different way they like to work through edits so if you’re not sure, ask. Your editor would rather take the 2 seconds to answer your questions then have to redo the document because it’s not how it’s supposed to be. In most cases, you’ll accept or reject the editor’s suggested changes. Simple, easy, and strangely satisfying.
  • “But I don’t want to!” It’s your book. Your work. Your words. And you have to be proud of it when it goes into a reader’s hands with your name on the cover. Sometimes, an editor will suggest a change you really don’t want to make. Maybe it changes the meaning you intended. Maybe it changes the essence of who the character is. Maybe you just really like the word scrumptious and feel justified using it 5 times in one paragraph. If you really can’t get on board with a change, then leave it alone and include a comment about why. Don’t just ignore suggested revisions! If you’re going to fight for scrumptious to stay, your editor needs to know why. But you might just find that if you think about it for a minute, your editor is right and maybe they saw a flaw that you didn’t. This is why we have editors! They see the things our tired eyes have missed. They see the things that we love but that readers will say, “What the hell?” to.
  • Go back and read your big picture notes again. Depending on the notes, you may have been able to work on these at the same time as your line edits. But if not, go back now, read the notes again, and get to work. Often a change I was dead set against now seems completely logical and I wonder how I didn’t see it myself. If not, now is the time to discuss it with your editor. Talk it out. It doesn’t mean they’re going to change their minds about the edits you need to do, but talking to your editor can help you work through any lingering questions or reasons why something needs to be changed or fixed.
  • Send that baby back! You’ve done it. You’ve survive your edits without the world crumbling around you. Treat yourself to something nice, an evening out, a delicious dessert, a couple of hours to read a book for fun that you didn’t write yourself! Go on, you deserve it.

Rest up! You’re going to need all your strength back for when the second edits come in. Just sayin’…

Are you an experienced writer with editing tips of your own? Leave your tips in the comments! 




About the author