Sister Rebekah’s Musings on Editing

I find editing a difficult beast. Is it an allergy? Something I ate? All I know is that it’s not as much fun as being in the hot seat of creativity, hammering out a new story. I like to go to coffee shops to edit, because when I start the process, I get distracted too easily by sparkly things like the internet, or crazy lint on my shirt and hey, my nails need clipping…

I’ve attended some great classes on how to edit a manuscript at the Queensland Writers Centre and I can’t recommend enough joining your local writers organisation for this kind of thing. An added bonus is you meet other people to toss ideas around with. I also like to buy books on editing, stack them in a pile and feel wonderfully smart that I’m going to read these awesome books…any day now. I do have one dog-eared book, called Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, which I sometimes go back to for a pep talk or game plan.

A recommendation I’ve heard a few times, is let your manuscript sit for a few weeks, if not more, then do a complete read through for the big things, like structure and characters that don’t work. When doing this, some of the questions James Scott Bell says to ask yourself are:

  • Does the story make sense?
  • Is the plot compelling?
  • Does the story flow or does it seem choppy?
  • Do my lead characters “jump off the page”?
  • Are the stakes high enough?
  • Is there enough of a “worry factor” for readers?

Personally, I’m a slow editor, as I know I have a tendency to skip words or paragraphs I’m familiar with. So I go slow. My editing method begins with reacquainting myself with old editing notes as a reminder of what to watch out for. Then, since I have the attention span of a fruit fly, I write out a list and tape it to my monitor or my forehead, depending on my mood.

My mantra is: Try to remember the BIG rules. Drink COFFEE. Turn OFF internet. Ignore kids FIGHTING in the back room. Then I combine it all with a huge dose of self-belief. I CAN do it! Even when it feels I can’t. I call it my soapy bubble of self-belief and I think everyone should have one.

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Posted on October 22, 2012, in Rebekah Turner. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Amen to those soapy bubbles! I have printed out two manuscripts to edit over the next few months. One has sat in my computer for a year, because I really needed that space between it and me. The other is a current love, that needs reshaping as I change what comes ahead of it.

    I’m with you on minimising distractions. And on QWC and their supreme editing how-to awesomeness.

    Editing. Blah. I have such a love-hate relationship with it, but it’s the only way that shitty first draft might ever become a thing of beauty. Or at least less shitty…

    • It’s a hard thing to get into the groove of, isn’t it! But worth it in the end. Can’t wait until you finish your pirates story!!!

  2. Awesomely true!

    I used to hate editing … hate it with a passion. But I heard another author say that they loved it, because it was the time in the process where characters start to come alive. So, I thought, maybe I can love it too. I’m not there yet … but like oysters and chilli, which I saw adults enjoying as a teen, I reckon with enough exposure I can get there. At the moment, I’m in some kind of halfway house. Writing is like driving a stampede of beasts across a plain, trying to keep the pack together amongst the kicked-up dust and clod. Immense fun. But editing gets the corrals around the wild horses, so you can cut out the dross and see the whole pack for what it is. Better done after the dust has settled, true. And I appreciate being hard edited by others is the only way I’ve improved. And I think I could grow to like that. Hoping there’ll be more love and less hate in my editing future.

  3. Reblogged this on Rebekah Turner.

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