“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener
That’s editing in a nutshell.
Some writers prefer writing the rough draft and feeling the creativity as it flows through their fingers. Other writers enjoy the editing stage and believe that’s where the real magic lies. Which do you prefer?
Writing the first draft can be fast and furious. You may find it difficult for your fingers to keep up with your brain as your brilliance pours out on the computer screen. Unfortunately, for most writers, the first draft isn’t always brilliant. In fact, very few writers can produce a saleable first draft. That’s when editing becomes a writer’s best friend.
Once that story is down on paper, or on the computer screen, it’s time to edit it. How? There are as many ways to edit as there are to write. No one way is right for everyone and you must find what works best for you.
Here are some different ways to edit:
One Pass. Some writers get their first draft down as quickly as possible and then let it rest for a few weeks, or a month. After the rest period, they go back and edit every single word, phrase, and paragraph to make sure it says exactly what they want it to say. This pass through their manuscript is grueling, but it only takes the one time and then it’s ready for submission.
Several Passes to Add Layers. Other writers edit their manuscripts multiple times. In each pass, they specifically add a layer to the story. When they feel they’ve added enough layers, they’re finished and ready to submit the manuscript. Some writers may edit their manuscript dozens of times.
Edit While You Write. Another possibility is to edit while you’re writing. Some writers won’t go to the next scene until they feel the previous scene is in its final format. These writers want to get each sentence right before they move on to the next sentence. When they’ve completed their manuscript, it’s ready for submission because they’ve spent so much time editing while writing.
Which works best? It depends on your own unique writing style. The important aspect is to make sure that the final manuscript is the best that it can be before you submit it to a publisher. Whether that takes you one pass or many, or you edit as you go, it doesn’t matter which process you choose as long as you find the process that allows you to submit the very best manuscript you can.
Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.
2 thoughts on “Editing Fiction by Rebecca Talley”
Nice blog. I agree with you; there is more than one way to write. Personally I edit while I write, but I still do a couple of pass overs before I give my manuscript to a few select readers to read, then when I get their comments back, I do one last pass over/fix it review of the manuscript before I consider it ready to submit.
I do all of those things that you listed. And I have gotten some of my best ideas after I thought I was ‘finished’ and just had to go back and add them in.
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