Thursday, 23 August 2012

Tip for Writers: Edit, Edit, Edit

Editing usually takes longer than the time it takes to write the first draft of your story. I started writing my recently published contemporary romance novel Chasing Pavements on August 1, 2010 and completed the first draft at the end of December 2010. After several rounds of editing, I self-published it as an e-book on June 30, 2012 via Smashwords.

At first though, I had no idea how to edit. I didn’t study English at college or university, nor had I taken any writing classes, so I didn’t know where to start. Google didn’t return many helpful sites and in the end, I utilized various techniques that I stumbled upon myself.  

Firstly, I just read through the novel on my laptop, chopping and changing as I went along.  I’d gone through Chasing Pavements at least three times in this manner, before I printed it out because I didn’t feel like I was improving the manuscript, just tidying it up a little. 

To save paper/trees, I reduced the font size to the smallest I could read, single-spaced it (but with a decent margin for notes) cramming as much text on the page as possible. That was how I discovered that with around 7-8 paragraphs on one page, you can:
  • See which sections, paragraphs, or sentences are best grouped together, i.e. by theme, issue, argument.  [Use arrows to denote what should be moved where.]
  • Whether too many paragraphs start in roughly the same way, or worse, with the same few words every time.  [Avoid starting paragraphs with the name of a character, or ‘I’ if first-person POV.  Write brief notes in the margins on how you can mix it up.]
  • Think about varying the way each paragraph approaches the point it’s trying to make.  [Why not start some paragraphs by describing the outcome or the end of an event, before going back and explaining the beginning?  It need not always be in chronological order.]
  • Recognise passages that are best removed completely or condensed as they slow down the pace of the chapter.
  • Highlight which sections need to be extended or elaborated upon.  [Add words where they’re needed, a sentence or two which bring together the whole paragraph or finish one off perfectly.]
  • Make it easier to question what you have written.  [And you should always question what you have written.  Pretend you're a critic - what's the toughest question you'd ask the author?  If you were reading it for the first time, would it all make sense?  Justifying these queries will give you ideas on how to further improve your work.]
I spent around 2 hours a day after work, going through my printout, leaving notes, arrows, strikethroughs, extra sentences etc. with a red pen.  Any more than 2 hours and my concentration would dip, attention drift.  After a whole week of this, regardless of how much of the manuscript I covered, I went back to the start and repeated the process on the same hard copy, this time with a blue pen. 

With all the spelling and grammatical errors pinpointed already, and my brain mulling over the work I’d done in the last week (both consciously and unconsciously), I was able to find yet more changes that needed to be made.  Solutions to problems I couldn’t find the first time around.

At the end of this second week came the part I found boring – transferring those changes onto the digital version.  It was a quick, simple task, but not as fun as what I’d done up until then.  That’s why it was a good idea to do this in batches.  Once I’d gone through the whole manuscript and made the changes to the file on my laptop, I was ready to... print it out again.  Yes, I went over it again in the same way and of course there was still plenty I could do to improve it.  I edited it, on-and-off, up until the point I published it.

In my opinion though, there is such a thing as “over-editing”.  Sometimes, multiple re-workings leads to editing out the initial magic that was there.  You read the words so many times that you even forget what was great, original about a certain chapter in the first place.  The writing can get a little robotic.  Therefore, whilst editing, always bear in mind that you want to improve your work, not lose its best qualities.

Thank you for reading this post. If you're interested in my debut novel, click the image below to learn more about it:

Like all my other books, it's also available on:
iBooks   |   B&N Nook   |   Kobo |   Smashwords 

Book Details

Length: 110,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Clean Romance / Diverse Romance / Interracial Romance / Romantic Drama / Women’s Fiction

Mood: Inspirational / Feel Good / Coming of Age / Dark
Content: Sexy but No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: New Adult & College / Adult / Female Readers

Recommended for: Readers that enjoy romance novels with serious issues and characters with depth. This is a story about life, love, friendship, family, music, art, destiny and soul mates.

And the first two books in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:

Amazon USAmazon UK|   iBooks US & UK   |   B&N Nook Store   |   Smashwords

PB1 Book Details

Length: 29,000 words
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Vampire Romance / Paranormal Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mood: Dark / Humorous / Coming of age
Content: No violence / No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: Teen / Young Adult / New Adult / Adult
Recommended for: Readers that love all things vampires, slayers and witches!


  1. So true! I see my own experiences in your description. I think of it sort of as a battle won -- I, too, never took a writing course and just had my own sensibility to go on. I also started with outlines and fleshed them out over time. It's a process, but so fulfilling :-)

    1. Yes, very satisfying when you've completed and published your book. And it's nice to see that others have had similar experiences :)