5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing

Once upon a time, back in August of 2014, I’d finished writing my novel. It was done! All I had left was editing and then I could start querying! I started researching the query letter (the Query Shark rocks!) when I was away from my manuscript and couldn’t edit. I figured the hard part was done, all I had left was to polish it up.


Here I am, 2 years later, with 2 revisions and 4 new drafts under my belt. In that time, I’ve learned so much. What I revise now, I never could have done when I started.

My writing?

Well, that’s about the same. Luckily, as writers, we don’t have to stop with the first draft.

5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing

The 3 main types of editing:

When you first start to edit your novel, if you’re like me, you’re trying to make it legible and entertaining. Looking for all your typos and bad commas. That’s not a bad place to start, but that’s not all there is to know about editing.

  • Type 1: Developmental editing –

    • Your world and characters need depth. They need to be more than just stereotypes or 2-dimensional characters.
  • Type 2: Structural editing –

    • How do the plot and action flow?
    • If there are chapters where nothing happens, do you need them?
    • Does everything in the story make sense and follow what’s happened before?
    • Are there hints so even the unexpected makes sense–in retrospect?
  • Type 3: Line edits –

    • The editing most people think of.
      • Misspellings, commas, and awkward phrasing.
      • Places where you tell, instead of show.
      • All the little rules you can learn and checklists.

You Can Ignore Edits

Just because you’ve got 1 million comments on your manuscript doesn’t mean you have to make 1 million changes.

  • Reasons I Ignore An Edit:

    1. It’s dialogue and that’s how my character speaks
    2. For stylistic reasons
    3. Because the editor doesn’t know [X], which explains why [Y] needs to be in there
    4. ONE critique partner/beta reader got confused, but everyone else seems to grok* it perfectly fine

Waiting Before You Edit Helps

  • If you’re like me, you:

    • read this advice 100 times
    • wrote your rough draft
    • edited less than 2 weeks after you finished

However, I’m older and wiser than I was when I finished my first shiny ugly draft. Now I know I can indeed edit immediately… line edits. I can make my story clearer and fix all the spelling errors and half the comma errors and get confused on the semi-colon vs em dash errors…

You know what I can’t do? Revise.

It took 4 rounds of edits, in which only 2 actually contained revisions (type 1 and 2 edits), for me to actually get my novel in decent shape. The flow is better, the last couple of chapters had to be rewritten–again.

Editing Techniques to Try

I learned I can do copy edits and flow best on paper. Other edits, I can be at the computer. The hard part? I can’t edit without either my stack of paper or at a computer. I could write on my phone, riding shotgun. I can’t even have music when I’m editing, because I’m too distractable. But everyone is different.

You’re Never Truly Done**

*Grok means to understand on a visceral level. (From Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land)
**You just reach a point where you deem it: Good Enough!

NOTE: You know what’s ironic? When you mis-schedule a draft post for Wednesday instead of Thursday, so your readers see the draft before you’ve finished editing it…while writing a post on editing. Luckily, those of you who saw this early liked it. Hopefully, you’ll like it better in all it’s planned glory!


  1. A million times yes, especially to the waiting and not having to make all the changes. Different editors and critique partners may give different advice. And never ending, oh man at some point you really do just have to deem it good enough. I could keep editing and making changes no matter how many times I go over my stuff until I go crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great notes about ignoring edits. I think especially when first starting with CPs it can be easy to get sucked into the idea that you NEED to go with everything they suggest. But it’s true that sometimes things that confused 1 CP, won’t confuse the others. Or that a character that 1 CP hates the others love. In the end, you have to go with what makes sense to you, it’s your work after all

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One more type of editing: it’s not exactly polishing, maybe it’s clarifying. I’ve written a number of stories where a reader had a bunch of issues, and then I went in – note, I frequently go through the whole story, if it’s short – and sometimes it’s just one more sentence, or a change of verbiage to a sentence, or even one word, sometimes it’s a very short (2-3 sentence) paragraph, and the same reader tells me it’s greatly better.

    Look at what you’re saying, where they’re complaining. Feel it out. Then make the stitch.


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