Let’s be honest, with just over one hundred sales, and maybe a couple thousand free downloads, I’m not in a position to really give anyone writing advice. But I’m finishing projects and making actual money with them (~$70 so far, woo!) which is more than a lot of writers can say. I got to thinking that perhaps more useful than writing advice is editing advice. After all, writing is easy, paring it down into something that’s acceptable for consumption is the difficult part. At least I think so.
I am a prolific writer and a lazy editor. I could do the former all day every day, and the latter feels like going to the dentist, especially when, like the dentist, malformed sentences want to scold me. Editing varies between works. Short stories are easier to keep track of so I typically don’t go through them as many times as I do my novels. The Chosen was my first long work, so I did at least seven or eight full edits. Skankarella had already been almost entirely written in my head when I started so it took four days to write, and about a week to edit.
But there is a general process that holds true for every work I complete. Typically my editing consists of going through the work multiple times with the following goals in mind:
Edit 1: The grammar, spelling, and word choice error edit. This is the one where I look for the easiest mistakes to fix, the doubled words, the typos, the misspellings, and the most obviously butchered sentences.
Edit 2: The search and destroy and enrichment edit. Here I’m looking for the less obvious mistakes, unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs, adverbs, passive voice, overused words or phrases, and descriptions that could use richer language. I’m looking to cut out the words that aren’t helping my story and improve the ones that are, but aren’t quite there yet. This one is sometimes unnecessary, because I feel I got things mostly right the first time, or I catch most of the mistakes in Edits 1 or 3.
Edit 3: The read aloud. This will kill the less obvious of the crappy sentences and any clunky dialogue. Seriously, read anything you write out loud. Nothing can hide. That word you used three times in seven paragraphs will stand out like it’s highlighted in red. You’ll know if your characters talk like real people or not. Too many short, long, or in between sentences? Reading aloud will catch them.
Edit 4: The pacing edit. This one was especially important for The Chosen and Arnett Tanner wants to Die because I switched around a few of the chapters. Much like a film editor, I go through each story to see if they feel right. Is the action too fast or too slow, does something need to be touched on more, or less? Did moving a chapter screw things up to the point they no longer make sense?
I try not to have set goals, other than to get things done in a timely manner. After so long my brain starts to melt and I begin to merely see the words instead of read them.
Everyone has different methods. There have been (more) successful writers that need to literally have the work torn from their hands after the twenty-seventh edit, and there are writers that go through things twice and call it good. Hopefully at least something here resonates.