Editing: The Path Is a Spiral

Writing versus Editing Milestones

I find writing milestones to be more encouraging than editing ones. There’s a finite-ness to it.

It’s easy to know when you’ve achieved your word count targets when you’re writing a draft.

Sure, you may have gone off the rails. This chapter might get cut in revisions. That whole side-quest may be removed. Your ending might be completely wrong for your book. But all that writing helps you with world building, with discovering truths about your characters that you never knew, and you take that with you. Even when those words are cut or changed.

It’s hard to know if you’ve finished editing a chapter.

There’s so many different things to think about. You can edit the same chapter 12 times and still have things you haven’t thought of.

Things To Edit

  1. Make the sentences coherent.
  2. Check the spelling
  3. Check the grammar
  4. Replace crutch/hedge words (just, only, very, to-be verbs)
  5. Replace passive voice
  6. Change adjectives, verbs, and analogies to be evocative of the mood the scene should set.
  7. Map out the story and see if the chapter is necessary. If so, maybe it’s in the wrong place.
  8. Cut the parts of the chapter that aren’t necessary – for character building, world building, or plot advancement.
  9. Add in parts of the chapter that are missing – for character building, world building, or plot advancement.
  10. Read the dialogue to make sure each character sounds unique and true to themselves
  11. Have a few people read it and let you know if it makes sense! Combine their reviews and follow the consensus (plus grammar/spelling)
  12. Tell your friends and family that you’re about to start another draft and that the books still not ready to be published.
  13. … start over again!

All you’re left to do is to remind yourself that each iteration gets you closer to where you want to be.

As Hermann Hesse wrote in Siddhartha:

“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”


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