You’re wiped out and feel like you could rip out your hair.
Yes, you finished the first draft, but now you’ve come to the ginormous task of editing.
Do you want to just run away?
Today, I want to talk to you about how you can survive the editing process, whether you’re a fiction or non-fiction writer.
Let’s dive in to the young writer’s survival guide to editing.
1. Spend More Time With Jesus
The first tip I have for you to survive the edit is to spend more time with Jesus!
This tip, while seemingly simple, is an important factor through making it through an edit of any kind, whether it’s an article, or a really long manuscript.
If we are followers of Christ, He should have a huge factor in our writing! Since our writing should be done for Him, it can suffer if we don’t spend time with Him.
Not only this, but over time, you can grow burnt-out and tired if you don’t spend time with Jesus.
Here’s what Nadine Brandes, Christian author of Fawkes, The Out of Time Series, Romanov, and the newly released Wishtress, said she felt during the editing process:
“When I sat down, unpacked my iPad, and ordered my chai…I didn’t want to read my Bible. I wanted to EDIT. I needed to edit.
“All the typical temptations rose up: “I don’t have time to read.” Or “I can read it later.” (That never actually happens.) “God knows my heart, He won’t mind.” I knew if I edited without reading He’d still be there with me, still love me, still guide me.
“BUT. I needed to read it. For ME. I needed to ensure I was putting Him first before everything. He gave me this book idea. He gave me this contract. I want to write my stories WITH Him, yet am always tempted to exclude Him. Ironic, isn’t it?”
She goes on to say how God blessed her as she dove into His Word: “He blessed my mind, my Bible time, AND my editing time. He was faithful—as He always is. He asked only that I be faithful too.”
If you are struggling to make it through your current edit, spend time with Jesus, even if you don’t want to at first. He may richly bless your life and your editing for your faithfulness.
2. Should I Really Take A Break?
Tip number two may sound a little stereotypical at first, but I’d like to answer the question above with a yes. . .
. . . And a no.
Most writers and editors will tell you to take a break between the first draft and the first edit.
I would agree! Take a break for a week, a month, or a few months!
But sometimes deadlines prevent us from taking the breaks we’d otherwise want to take.
As an assignment for school, I had to create a short story to submit to a publication of some sort. This short story turned out to be a novelette of over 12,000 words (around 11,000 for the first draft).
I was on deadline and as soon as I got the first draft done, I printed it off and started to edit. The first edit was a quick read-through, then I did several more read throughs for content, then I moved to line edits.
The whole process felt very long, but in actuality, within a few weeks I had a polished manuscript I felt satisfied with.
It would have been nice to have had a break between the edit and the completion of the first draft, but it simply didn’t happen.
In the long run, it probably helped me to get that manuscript finished in time to not take a break.
The question becomes. . . how do you survive when you don’t take a break?
3. Putting Your Blinders On
There are two main types of editing. The first is called the macro edit, and most of the time this is a content edit. The second is called the micro edit, or the line edit. First, I want to talk about the content edit.
I like to joke about the fact that while editing, especially during the content edit, I need to be like a horse with blinders on.
Blinders on a horse serve a few purposes. First, to help them stay focused during races. Secondly, to help them not to get spooked by things that may be on the track during the race.
In the same way, while the first content edit, it’s helpful to put on “blinders”.
During the first edit, don’t pay attention to the grammar, punctuation, capitalization, or spelling. Focus just on what your content is. This, in essence, is what the content edit even is.
This can help you avoid being distracted by these things and iron out your content. Get your concept and what’s happening in your article right before you fix everything else.
It can also make you less anxious about what needs to be done on the messy, semantical side of things.
When you have all of your content ironed out, move on to your line edit. We’ll discuss the line edit more below, but I can guarantee that once you have everything worked out with your content, it will be much easier to finish your edit.
And yes, I know it’s hard! Trust me, I had such a hard time not noting every single little thing that I noticed when I first read through my novelette.
But after a while, I started to see, “OK, this character is not developing as deeply as she could be,” Or, “This dialogue makes no sense and doesn’t contribute to the story.”
Maybe it’s a weird scene, maybe it’s not enough description, maybe the magic system isn’t working, maybe there’s lots of plot holes.
Or, if you’re a non-fiction writer, maybe a thought isn’t complete, maybe you’re under-explaining or over-explaining in a certain place, maybe you need more evidence for an argument.
So both in fiction and non-fiction, don’t focus on the technical things. Focus on the thoughts and concepts on the page.
4. Sharing Your Concept With Others
If you have written a novel, a book, or a long piece of fiction such as a novella or novelette, it can be helpful to have beta readers or alpha readers in the editing process. They can provide you additional feedback about which things must be fixed even after you’ve started editing or finished a few edits.
This can help you be motivated to write because, now, you have a bunch of people providing feedback on your work! It can help you feel like, “OK, I’m not alone in this process.”
Alpha readers–readers who read the early draft of your book and provide feedback on the content aspect–aren’t necessary to the edit of your book, but are generally helpful. They can help you spot plot holes you may not have seen, tell you if your characters are relatable and real enough, etc.
Beta readers are readers who help you in the final edits of your book. They give feedback on small issues like grammar, spelling, and style. They can also point out larger issues like plot and characters that weren’t resolved in the first edit.
Alpha readers could have potential bad effects on your editing process. How so? They could make you feel more overwhelmed by what needs to be done and make you feel frustrated by what problems are still there.
However, they can also be extremely helpful, because they can help you see issues that you’ve grown blind to.
Beta readers are extremely helpful in the edit and almost necessary to the edit. You wouldn’t want to send off a manuscript to a publisher before someone read it, because there could be issues that you have missed.
5. Stop Doubting Grammarly
Have you ever had doubts about a program like Grammarly?
Doubt no more!
Grammarly, while imperfect in its guidelines and programming, is actually quite helpful. Especially during the line edit.
Splitting up your book into pieces and sending it through Grammarly after a free preliminary line edit (an edit concerning grammar, spelling, and punctuation) can help you make sure you’ve caught everything.
Grammarly does make mistakes, so it is helpful to actually go through every single suggestion, just to ensure it isn’t misreading your text.
How do you import writing into Grammarly? Personally, I like to open my Grammarly Dashboard at app.grammarly.com (you do have to create an account) and click new. Then I copy paste my document’s content into the editor, set my goals for the document, and then click start. Grammarly will give you suggestions, and you can click through them to look at where they are at, why the program is making that suggestion, and then you can accept or reject them.
There is a Chrome extension and app you can download that gives suggestions while you are writing.
Personally, I am not a fan of this. The app and extension can make it where I’m stressing out about line edits during the content edit. Which is the opposite of what I should do, as I discussed in point three.
Grammar handbooks are helpful as well, though I prefer to use a handbook during the drafting process, as this can help me not to make mistakes from the very beginning.
But during your first line edit, use a handbook. Skim through it before you begin editing, then as you encounter things that you think may not be quite right, look it up in the handbook, fix it, and move on.
6. The Last Resort. . .
My final tip for you is probably a last resort for many. And that is, hire a professional editor.
Most of the time a professional editor is hired after you’ve done all you can to edit your novel. The types of editors, however, are many.
You have line editors, proofreaders, content editors, copy editors, and many more, depending on the type of writing you’re needing editing for. However, the different types of editing do vary from publisher to publisher and editor to editor. So when you look and research your editors, please verify what they mean by each of these types of editing and what all that involves.
Content editors go through exactly that: Your content. They look at what your writing says and provide edits about that area.
Line editors go through your grammar and “on making prose polished” as stated by this detailed article from Grand Canyon University.
Copy Editors focus on “correcting inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization errors, shifts in tense and similar issues.”
Proofreaders are editors who read through your manuscript (a close to finished draft) after these edits to make sure that there is no uncorrected issues before a manuscript is published and printed.
The type of editor you may hire depends upon what kind of writing you have, where you are at in the writing process, and how badly your manuscript needs to be published.
But regardless of the type of editor you’re hiring, there’s one principle that is important to follow: Do your research.
Don’t hire just anyone off the internet. Look them up, look at their credentials.
How many editing projects have they had in the past? Have they worked with authors and the publishing industry before? What kind of formal training have they had in editing? And is the content on their website well-written?
Below I will include a list of editing resources, including editors, editing software, and other helpful tips to help you in your potential search for an editor.
Your Next Steps
Your next step is to. . .survive! As you finish your edit on your book or article, use these tips to make it through this stage.
And not only use the tips in this article, but below there’s a list of resources for editing to help you not only survive, but thrive.
Go forth and complete your project dear writer!