Top tips for editing your writing

I thought I’d share my new way of editing my cosy crime novel with you and I’d like to know what other people do and hear your tips too. In the past I’ve read and reread my work, often changing as I read on my laptop.  Sometimes though I lose my place and find myself endlessly scrolling up and down looking for things I need to check which wastes time. Also this method does not fit that well into the short bursts I tend to have to work in during the working day (like half an hour before work or the odd half hour over lunch in a cafe). Also I forget exactly what I’m looking for sometimes and although I have several books on rewriting, find I need quick, pithy reminders especially if I’ve just come from a meeting and have lots of other stuff whirling around my head (as we all do during the working day).  This year I’ve decided to edit  in a different way as below.

  • I print off  30 pages at a time and work through them making changes in pencil, keeping them in a folder
  • If there’s things I need to check I just write these on a post-it note to do later when I’m at home and have more time
  • I have two laminated checklists to refer to jog my memory. One I got from the website about Talk for Writing, a way of teaching writing to children by Pie Corbett. It’s called ‘The How-to-hook-your-reader toolkit ‘ and is short, succinct and helps me anyway ( I’m not too proud to use tips intended for 11 year olds). The other is ‘Strengthen your Fiction’ by Kerrie Flanagan which was a short item from the January 2018 edition of Writer’s News which I also like a lot  as it distils editing down to 10 Top Tips ( I think this is available online, http://www.writers-online.co.uk)
  • Then when I’m at home and less pushed for time I make the changes on the document on my laptop
  • I also have a notebook in my folder and write out phrases I don’t like so that sometimes I can spend the odd half hour thinking of better words, similes or metaphors to include at a later date
  • I’ve also drawn out a fictional map of the villages where this book is set as it helps me to know where the locations are in relation to each other and be able to decide for example if my protagonist Liddy could walk to the pub of if she’d need a lift or where she might walk her dog and stuff like that…This is also in my folder.

I think it’s helping. So far I’m 2/3 through but the last third is far trickier. I’ve got to tie in all those loose ends, check for continuity and so on.  Also as I mentioned in an earlier post I’ve changed the point of view from first to third person so there’s lots of pronouns and suchlike to change too and I KEEP missing them! It’s very frustrating but I am getting there.

Anyway I’d love to know what you guys do and share tips with other would be writers. I’m sure some of you have this editing lark down to the fine art which I suppose it is.

13 thoughts on “Top tips for editing your writing

  1. Sounds like good advice 😊 I myself always edit on my laptop. After a while I go “blind” and start thinking that a lot of sentences sound strange, when this happens I copy the sentences into another document and read them at a later time… then they almost always sound fine. Works well to avoid “overediting” (don’t fix it if it aint broke 😉)

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  2. Hi, Scarlett – thanks for the follow. I am intrigued by your self-editing method – it looks good to me. Another tip I came across was to listen to your script being read – by yourself or someone else. I have written and self-published four books but do not consider myself an expert on anything. However, I firmly believe that once the author has finished their own edit, they should turn it over to an editor they trust. As authors, we are never able to catch all the flaws in our script because we read them through the same eyes as when we wrote them. An editor comes to the script with fresh eyes and will discern where the weaknesses are. Only one problem – professional editing is not cheap. So I understand why an author might not submit their work to an editor, I think it is a mistake.

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  3. Thanks for the follow, Scarlett.

    What works best for me is to print out each completed draft and, using a ruler and a red pen, read every line out loud. Speaking the words aloud helps me catch typos, poor grammar, etc., that I can’t catch just by reading in my head. By the time I’m done, I have notes on almost every page (and a sore throat). I go back to my computer, make the edits, and repeat the process. Usually, by the 3rd or 4th draft, I send the manuscript (in PDF) to a couple of my Beta Readers. These are people I have found through Goodreads that have read / reviewed my previous books, and I value their input. One of them caught an embarrassing mistake in my 3rd book where I had the bride groom carrying his sister away from the wedding reception instead of his new wife! Oops! I honestly don’t know if I would’ve caught that myself before publishing the book. After the Beta reader(s) step, I then convert the PDF to a .mobi format (download Calibre if you don’t have it already) and I read the book on my Kindle, highlighting and making notes as I go. Then back to edits. If I’m creating a print version as well as ebook, I order the proof and read it, jotting down any further edits in the margins. This is usually the last step. I look forward to the day I can afford to put the “final” draft in the hands of a good editor, but, until then, the above process has worked well for me. I’ve never had any reviews complaining about poor grammar, editing, etc., so I think I’m doing okay.
    Cheers!
    Maggie

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