Thursday, April 5, 2012

The A to Z Challenge: Today's Word: Edit

Today's word begins with E, and is a word most writers would rather do without...EDIT.

Most of us edit as we go along, or we do some editing on recent previous work when we've stopped writing for a while and before we begin again. We check back for SPAG (spelling, punctuation, and grammar), and for the most part, we let it go at that.  Some writers edit after each completed scene, others after each finished chapter, and I've heard of some who write a complete first draft before they edit a single thing. Then, we go back and look for things like dialogue that doesn't make sense, coming from a certain character. We check that the setting is correct, for the time and place we have the story in. We look for adverbs and adjectives we can do without, we look for excessive descriptive narration that we can shorten or delete completely, and so on. Most of the time, we think we know exactly what we should be looking for, to edit and revise. But... do we?

Recently, I had a manuscript sent back to me from a publisher who asked for certain revisions. There were four issues I had to deal with. I read through the comments she and two of her editors had made, and thought, How am I going to do this? There wasn't any kind of major revision asked for, but each issue was very different, and required a very focused edit. Most important, they were issues I had not thought of at all. In fact, one of them, "contemporary sensibilities," was something that I actually had no idea, at that moment, what it meant it terms of my MC.

I started with the first page, first chapter, and tried to confront each issue as I went along. That did not work! I realized that I had to take each issue and work only on that one. But first of all, I had to figure out what each issue meant in relation to my characters, particularly my MC.  That wasn't so easy, but in the final analysis, I think I did a fairly decent job.

I went back to the first page, and began working on the first issue, which was that the editors felt the father and two older brothers in the story were one-dimensional and needed to be rounded out. I had deliberately made them that way, with a specific reason in mind, but I understood what the editors were saying. These three characters only appear in the first three chapters, so rewriting them to make them more sympathetic for such a short time was not exactly easy. At this point, I can only hope I did a good enough job that it will show them to the editors in a different light.

When I finished that edit and revision, I saved it as "Draft One." Then I took that draft, and began working, again from page one, on the second issue. When I thought I had edited and revised that issue to the best of my ability, I saved it as "Draft Two."

I did the same thing with each succeeding issue, until I had worked with, edited, and revised each of the four issues, and I had Drafts Three and Four completed. My Fifth and final draft was the one I resubmitted, after I had once again gone over it, sentence by sentence, to make sure I had edited and polished it as well as I possibly could.

It was time-consuming. It was hard, concentrated, highly focused effort. It made my back hurt and my eyes twitch. In the end, it was worth it. Even if this publisher still doesn't want to publish it, I believe it is a much better and stronger story than the first "final draft" I originally sent in. The issues were very valid, and while not along the lines of a major revision, were absolutely things I needed to deal with and edit/revise in the manuscript. More than that, they were also things I now am looking for, editing and revising in my other two completed manuscripts.

What do you think about editing, and how do you go about it?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. Mikki, I save them as different drafts, too! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. :)

  2. Umm...I have to be honest, Kelly, I didn't always do it that way! My daughter, an adult-book author,told me I was doing things the hard way, and to start saving each completed edit as a draft. It really is so much easier, and then you have the previous one to go back to if you need it. Sometimes it takes me awhile...