What is your process for editing and revising your work?

I am starting on the daunting process of revising/editing my novel. After hours of listening to podcasts, youtube videos, and the two conferences that the Wallaces have organized, I’m feeling a little intimidated by the whole process. Much of what I have read/watched will give things like a list of questions but but not the actual process. Right now I’m making notes of things that need to be changed in a word document and they range from big structural issues to minor editing.

Do you have a process that works for you? Does it change with each work? Are there any tips or tricks for learning how to spot the problem areas in your writing or work?

Thank you in advance. I hope that question makes sense.
-Jo

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Have you heard of Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA? She goes through a pyramidal revision process. It starts with big things (plot, structure, etc.), then moves on to characterizations, and things like that. The last step is grammar, spelling, and line editing.

Here’s the DIY MFA site: https://diymfa.com/

I tried this approach with the last book I wrote. It wasn’t for me, but it might help you get a glimpse into how someone else has approached the editing process.

With the book I’m writing now, I’ve been trying something closer to how I write and edit my fanfiction work. I have big events in mind, but I outline, draft, and edit one chapter (sometimes two) at a time. It keeps me focused and makes me think logically about plot and characters so I don’t have to go back and wonder if my characters are out of character at any given moment. Basically, it checks off the characterization element of editing for me.

Working in chunks like this also keeps me focused on moving the plot along. Since I have the next big plot point in mind, every chapter has to take me a step or two closer to that goal, and since I already have at least three or four of the big moments (inciting incident, midpoint, climax, etc.) in mind, the structure cooperates decently (though, it does need tweaking at times).

That leaves line editing, etc. I go through every chapter after I’ve written it and make sure I’m happy with every word on every page. It takes time, but it means I can split up the tedium and do it in sections rather than trying to line edit a whole manuscript, which, for me, wasn’t such a great thing.

Jerry Jenkins has a great list for self-editing: https://jerryjenkins.com/self-editing/

Anyway. Hope that helped at least a little.

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After the usual simmer, the first thing I do is go on a hunt for filter-ing words. These are words added to show a scene through a character’s perspective. As in, “To: see, hear, think, touch, wonder, look-seem-feel, can/can’t/could/couldn’t-notice, etc.” I’ve highlighted some of my favorites. Anytime I find a sentence that has my character(reader) saying/thinking, “Hmmm . . .” I know I have some(!?) filtering going on. After that, I run my favorite adverbs and work really(?) hard removing at least(?) two-thirds of 'em. I also try not to go back to the beginning every time I finish a chapter/scene, etc. Once I’ve achieved those goals, I find a lot of the corrections to be technical(spelling, grammar), and I can then start looking at loose redundancies, or slips of the narrative tongue.

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That does help quite a bit. I like the idea of breaking things down into steps and having a guide for what to look for first. Thank you.

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That is interesting. I hadn’t put too much thought into filter words but I will go back and check. (I have one introverted character so most of her dialogue is in her head.) Thank you for pointing it out.

Odd question but when you say loose redundancies, do you mean where you repeat the same word/phrase/description? (I do that a lot but mostly to help me keep track of things while I’m actively writing.)

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Redundancies, as in verbosity. Tautology. I have a strong tendency to assign couplets, or pairs, of words I think will clarify and accentuate the prose. I do this because most of my drafting is me telling me the story and there are times I feel I must qualify and explain.

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Just a side thought but the first thing that popped into my mind upon seeing ‘redundancies’ was to think of times when an author both shows and tells the same information. For example, having a dialogue tag like “he shouted angrily” telling the reader he is angry followed by actions and other information that show how
angry the character is; spit flying out of their mouth, pounding a fist on a table, slamming a door, etc.

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Interesting. Thank you for clarifying.

Also I learned what tautology is. Never heard that word before.

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I thought of a habit of mine - repeating things like character names A LOT. (It helps me to keep track of who is speaking/performing an action.)

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Like you, JoHoughton, I usually write the whole novel to maintain the momentum - and my enthusiasm - before revising. The first draft done, I take a break, then start re-reading, tweaking, finding major plot flaws then going back to insert or take out what needs doing. The second draft is much closer to ‘home’. The third, fourth, fifth or whatever drafts are refining unless I have a late brainstorm (which does happen occasionally) requiring a lot of input. I end the re-writing process with the placement of commas and other boring things to make the content of the book shine.

I freely admit that I love the re-writing process, unlike many other authors. In fact, I have to make myself stop when I realise the only changes I’m making are purely opinion and not necessary.

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Thank you.

This has been such an interesting thread for me because I didn’t considering editing each chapter as you go. I just thought that everyone wrote the entire draft and then went back to fix any issues.

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It’s about what works for you. When you find it, you’ll know. :slight_smile:

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This new perspective to approach editing is infallible, I believe. To search and work these filter words will make the whole process easier and faster. Good advice! :ok_hand:

Here is a blog post by Sandra Gerth I came across today that relates to this topic really well.

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Sandra Gerth’s approach is very similar to my process.
I usually have four proofreads, one on the computer at normal size, one with the pages enlarged, one on a tablet, and then a printout. You spot different things with different ‘embodiments’.
Then I send it off to my editor.
After getting it back and making all the changes, I then repeat the process.
And usually go back for a 2nd critique, and repeat one last time.
Final revision is of the proof copy.
The most valuable edits and revisions are the big picture ones, which really means from my editor’s feedback. Beta readers also help, but see fewer issues than a professional editor.

I would just like to say thank you to everyone for your input and advice. I’ve read up on your suggestions and think I’ve found a system (maybe not the system but we’ll see). It has really been helping me grow as a writer. I’m more self confident and feel like this book is turning into the kind of book I want to read.

I’ve put some of the suggestions into practice and am still getting input from two readers so no permanent fixes yet. However, I’ve already got my notes for this project, starting with the larger issues. I figure after that I’ll try recording myself reading a chapter out loud and see how that works out. I’ve playing with the font size and that has helped too. Also, I’ve discovered that listening to heavy metal music is helpful because it distracts me enough to be able to read the words and not the story… I hope that statement makes sense.

I’ve been playing with the font size and it does make a lot of difference. I can see structural problems much easier.

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Sure, that’d work, but I meant I just zoomed the window so it appeared bigger. (That’s enough.) I don’t want to change the published font size.