Editing for Wimps, or, How I Revise

12 Feb

Before I start, one thing needs to be made absolutely clear: I detest and despise editing. But, as all writers know, you can’t just be sending your first drafts off to literary magazines without so much as a read-over, so the beast must be faced. I’m not much of a hardcore editor, though, so I have a system that skirts around the actual editing as much as possible to keep the suffering brief. I have a sinking feeling that it’s going to break down pretty soon as I continue my editing of The Novel.

Without further unnecessary and irrelevent ado, here it is: The Wimp’s Guide to Editing.

  1. Draft without a care in the world. When drafting, I try my hardest not to think about the finished product or the editing that will ensue. This makes the revision itself worse, yes, but it puts it off. Procrastination is something I particularly pride myself on.
  2. Force other people to read it.  Never, under any circumstances, try to be a wimpy editor without some beta readers on hand. Online writing buddies are good for this–if you have like-minded real-life friends, all the better. Your beta readers should pick out most of the major issues in your piece. Having others read towards the beginning of editing shortens the process, as well, since you’ll be getting outsiders’ reactions as part of the deal.
  3. Fix according to others’ suggestions. If you agree with your beta readers, or at least see their points, then you should fix the things they had major problems with now. Continue to put off your own examination of the piece.
  4. Be nitpicky. Be a proofreader now, and go through the piece looking for errors in spelling, grammar, and logic. Proofreading is usually treated as a final step in the editing process, but I like to take it on earlier. You can continue to procrastinate as you become more familiar with the story’s potential flaws and good points.
  5. Bite the bullet. Now you need to face the facts and actually do some of your own editing. Force yourself to see what’s wrong with the story. Make yourself see problems with the plot, spot awkwardly worded sentences, and decide which parts need to be removed, reduced, or expanded. This is undoubtably the hardest part of my writing cycle, but it needs to be done.
  6. Go back to Step Two and repeat until satisfied. Your story will never be considered perfect by everyone, but the editing has to stop somewhere. Otherwise, how would anything ever be published? That’s right, it wouldn’t. And not every story is going to become fully fit to see the light of day–just ask Anne Bradstreet. Stay wimpy, writers.

Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Writing


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5 responses to “Editing for Wimps, or, How I Revise

  1. Liam, Head Phil

    February 12, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    I understand what’s here, all except the first step. How do you draft? I suppose I am a complete idiot in regard to this sort of thing, so…

    • Allegra Davis

      February 13, 2012 at 7:33 AM

      Drafting isn’t really a step to editing at all–it’s just the actual initial writing of the piece. I only put it on the list to show that I don’t worry about the final outcome along when I’m coming up with the rough copy of the story.

  2. Miriam Joy

    February 19, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    EDITING IS EFFORT. I’ve edited Watching six times now, reworking the plot three or four times. Luckily, I have a few great readers. Cathryn Leigh – you’ll maybe see her around my blog, commenting – is a brilliant beta reader. She’s great at saying, “This character doesn’t behave like herself here” or “This scene is too fast” without making it seem personal, you know? She critiques the writing without critiquing the writer and she’s great at it. I am SO grateful to her.

    Also, I was email-subscribed to your blog for a while, but somehow… it’s gone. it just vanished. I’m not sure how that happened. I think it’s technology hating on me again. I’ll have to try and subscribe again.

  3. Miriam Joy

    February 19, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    This additional comment is to allow me to click the email subscribe button as I didn’t see it until I pressed ‘Post’ before. I hope you don’t mind. My inbox is bereft from the lack of your posts recently.


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