Stephanie here! I'm super excited that we have Rachelle Rea with us today to share 5 Tips for A Successful Self-Edit.
It's a little surreal to me that my little Rachelle is a qualified guest poster these days. *Sniff, sniff.* Rachelle has been around Go Teen Writers basically since it began, and it's been such a joy to watch her grow and mature. Not only is her writing beautiful - her debut novel releases next summer with WhiteFire Publishing - but she's building a reputation as an amazing editor too. I've heard both Roseanna M. White and Lisa T. Bergren sing her praises.
We're so touched that today Rachelle is giving away a 25 page critique to one lucky writer! You'll be in excellent hands.
Hi, I'm Rachelle, and I edit for other people.
I correct typos and punctuation, check to make sure tense and point of view remain consistent, and suggest changes that ensure clarity. I enjoy my job. I also edit my own novels. Do you expect me to say I don't enjoy that job? Well, I do.
But it's a lot harder to edit my own writing than it is to take the words of other people and push and pull until they're perfectly in place. Why is that? Why do my own words look pristine on the page until someone else finds a typo or points out that the scene I deleted is referenced in Chapter Three?
Because I think I know what I'm talking about.
When I sit down with my own document and make it a goal to power through a set number of pages before I fall into bed, I go in knowing what to expect. I have an image in my mind of what the heroine and her hero look like. I hear what they sound like. I may miss the reference to the deleted scene because I remember that deleted scene (and may forget that it's, um, deleted). It's part of the story in my mind.
So my pre-first step for you when you sit down to edit your own words is don't. Wait. Stephanie's a fan of six weeks. I've gone as long as a year (I was writing the sequel, okay? Sheesh). When you write The End, revel in it. Throw a party. Give yourself some distance before you start self-editing.
Six weeks is over? Okay, then. Let's get started.
1. Read Your Novel.A lot of authors recommend this: that you read your entire novel for a big-picture look at how you want to macro-edit before you tackle the micro-edit. Simply, scenes before sentences. This didn't work for me until I discovered you can email documents to your Kindle. Hallelujah. So read your whole novel and...
2. Make a List of Big Changes.When I edit my own novel or someone else's, I keep a notepad handy. Or sticky notes. Anything. Later, I compile all my story notes into a document named just that and I look at the list as a whole. What do my notes deal with? Shades of suspicion. Wherever I doubt a character's motives (or where there seems to be little motive at all), wherever I'm confused about the timeline (and, alas, this happens often in my historicals), wherever I question whether a scene is really needed or can be summarized. I note all of it, make a list, and study that list until I decide how I'm going to go about removing every shade of suspicion. Next up...
3. Make a List of Small Changes.This is often regressive for me. For instance, my novel's heroine is near-sighted and wears glasses (did I just hear some of you cheering?). In an early draft, she lost her glasses yet conveniently possessed a second pair. On her person. In the middle of a voyage across the English Channel. Yeah. This didn't make it onto my List of Big Changes, but it did seem contrived to an early reader. So I made it more realistic: she just lost them. Doing that, though, enabled me to make her more vulnerable later. Win. Don't be afraid to make small changes and see how that shifts your character's development or the plotline of the whole novel.
4. Editing is No Longer Optional.This stage is not the final polish, but treat it like it is. Treat this like your mother, grandmother, or an agent you aspire to work with one day is going to read this draft. A note to speed-readers: refrain. Instead of glancing at the sentence, comprehending, and moving on, sound out the words in your head as you read. Slow going? Absolutely. Worth it? Every time.
5. Polish Until It ShinesThis looks different for different writers. Some ideas:
- Hand out copies to your friends.
- Let your critique group read chapters.
- Email your writing partner.
- Ask a trusted mentor to tell you what she thinks.
- Hire an editor.
Lots of writers have a favorite part of writing the first draft. Do you have a favorite part of the editing process?
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