Questions 3: Editing (Right to the Point Here)

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As I’ve said, editing is one of the hardest parts of writing.  It would be great if our first draft was the best and we never had to change a thing.  Some people believe this is what it’s like and avoid the editing stage altogether.  The rest of us know that this is a necessary trial and there are 100’s of rules/opinions on how to get it done.  Let’s get a few of those in the comments:

  1. What is the easiest/most fun part of editing for you?
  2. What is the hardest/least fun part of editing for you?
  3. What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you follow?
  4. Bonus:  What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you don’t follow?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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40 Responses to Questions 3: Editing (Right to the Point Here)

  1. L. Marie says:

    1. What is the easiest/most fun part of editing for you?
    None of it is easy. But I enjoy the process of revising. I can slow down and flesh out scenes and chapters. I can explore dialects and subtext more.
    2. What is the hardest/least fun part of editing for you?
    Proofreading and making everything consistent. This is especially hard when there are three point-of-view characters. I had to use a calendar to keep track of who was doing what on a given day every day for the weeks during which the book takes place. Also, I had to keep track of distances—how long journeys took, what was plausible for a horse. Another nit-picky thing was keeping track of injuries. If someone is scarred, which side of the face is it on?
    One of the hardest aspects of the process is cutting characters that don’t really move the story along. Many of those scenes have to be rewritten or discarded.
    3. What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you follow?
    Kill your darlings.
    4. Bonus: What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you don’t follow?
    Write what you know—at least some of the time. If I only wrote what I know, I wouldn’t write much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt Bowes says:

      Marie: 3 POV characters!!!! That does make for some challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

    • 1. The slower speed definitely helps. I’ve found that the length of time to write a chapter is the same I give to edit it, which is a good thing.

      2. That sounds like a really tough juggling and balancing act. Distances and time are a tough one. I recently noticed how anime and manga don’t seem to care too. For example, Lucy has been in Fairy Tail for only a year by the time Wendy the Sky Dragon Slayer joins them. That means she went through all of the huge story arcs that hinted at time in the middle within a year. There have been a few more times where the time that’s passed simply doesn’t make sense.

      3. Honestly, I really hate that rule. Too many people take that as a necessity to utterly destroy what they’ve done and rip it to shreds. Some go so far as to junk it all and keep only the core of the idea and characters. If you’ve written an entire manuscript and only keep 15-20% then that sounds like an initial waste of time to me. Just my opinion though.

      4. Another rule that I think gets taken a little too literally. I’ve seen that get tossed at fantasy authors, but we don’t know magic or dragons. I believe this rule is more about researching and thinking about what you’re going to write. I currently ‘know’ Windemere even though I’m always learning more about it as I go along.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        Matt, it is challenging!
        Charles, I keep most of what I’ve written. In fact, I usually add to what I’ve written. What I kill are scenes that don’t move the plot along. I don’t know anyone who throws out most of a book. If they choose to do so, they must have a reason. But I don’t usually do that. The only time I did was when I didn’t really have a good antagonist and the story wasn’t going anywhere. So I had to toss 110 pages away. But I needed to start over.
        I once threw out a chapter I spent two weeks writing and editing. That’s what I mean by “kill your darlings.” I really liked the scene, but I didn’t really need it.

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      • I’ve met many who throw most of a book out. Some have said it’s because they didn’t like where it went at some point, but they don’t stop until they’re done. Others claimed ‘you have to kill your darlings’ and that was it. When I asked them if what they wrote was good, they say yes, but that doesn’t matter because you have to tear it apart to make it stronger. Sadly, a lot of them created a weaker story or simply couldn’t rebuild it at all. This is why I really don’t like how the phrase is used. I might not have a use for it because of my outlines and planning though.

        Sorry about the scene. What was wrong with it?

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  2. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, good questions. I thought I did a good job editing the manuscript, but the line editor targeted plot holes, too formal dialogue, too much narrative history and a lot of other things. It was easy for me to get the grammar right (I had completed a yearlong Copyediting Certificate Program). The hard parts were what the editor told me I had to straighten out. The rule I follow now- delete what doesn’t advance the story. I don’t follow the rule no cliches. Back in the 50s & 60s old fashioned cliches fit very nicely. I’m a newbie writer and learned so much with an editor to teach me the ropes. 🙄📚😊 Christine

    Like

    • Too formal dialogue? Not sure I’m aware of what that is. People have said that when I have characters speaking politely and too nobility. Honestly, I think it’s a rather strange complaint since people talk like that at times.

      With deleting what doesn’t advance the story, do you mean the main plot? I have heard people use this phrase and then demand that I delete things that relate to character development and subplots that run alongside the main plot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Charles, normal talk vs formal. Normal talk has hesitations, stops & starts—repeats words, and it’s sometimes sloppy. Depending on the setting & character talking, of course. Polite works for some characters. Delete what doesn’t advance the story based on the main goal. I got off into the woods with narrative history (it’s a historical fiction book) and needed to weave it into dialogue. I didn’t need to delete what related to a character’s development or the subplots that ran alongside the main plot. In fact subplots strengthen the story. Take what people say—with a grain of salt.🤣 You know intuitively what works for your story. 📚🎶 Christine

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      • Funny thing is that I’ve had people complain about me using normal talk in dialogue. I’m told not to repeat words, use . . . points, or slang because it’s bad grammar. The times I’ve cried “But people talk this way!” is more digits than I have to count.

        Writing present tense, I can only do so much narrative history before it causes trouble. I depend a lot on dialogue for this, which is why I always have a character that doesn’t know about things. It isn’t always the same one, but it gives a reason for them to ask questions that the audience might have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Omg…unbelievable that people criticized you for using normal talk dialogue! Discount those comments. Yep, I agree history weaved into dialogue to or by a character is the only way to go. Readers skim over stand alone history narrative. And it interrupts the story flow. 📚🎶

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      • I think people have their own way of doing things and end up thinking that’s the best way. They have preferences and many forget that it isn’t for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        I totally agree, Charles. Let people be, and write what works for you. 📚🎶

        Liked by 1 person

      • V.M.Sang says:

        I had the travelling thing in 2 of my novels. I researched how long it would take to get from one place to another both on foot and on horseback.
        For me, the easiest part is grammar and spelling. Although I says it wot shouldn’t, my grammar and spelling are quite good.
        The hardest part is searching for those blasted plot holes.
        One rule I follow is to put the manuscript away for a few weeks, or months, before beginning to edit.

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      • I don’t worry too much about traveling. Mostly because I do a time passes and leave the period vague enough for people to assume it’s where it needs to be. I only uses specifics when I really have to.

        Never been any good at that last rule. I tend to do an editing run right away because the story is fresh in my mind. I go looking for continuity then.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    Charles, to answer your question, the main character wasn’t active in the scene. She fell asleep, and then woke up and overheard an argument others were having. I already showed the tension between the arguers in other scenes, so I didn’t really need this scene.

    As for those who gut their stories wholesale “just because,” well, that seems sad. I wonder if they liked the revamped stories that came as a result.

    Like

    • Some liked the revamped stories because they felt that it had to be better. Others got trapped in an endless editing loop that caused them to quit.

      I can see how that scene wouldn’t work if everything has been established already. I’ve used scenes like that, but my use of ensemble casts makes it more feasible.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 4. I do not follow the “rule” that contractions should never be used in fiction, not even in characters’ dialogue. (The supposed reason for this “rule” is that one acquisitions editor for some magazine stated that she doesn’t like contractions and that ‘readers just read the two words as one anyway, so why bother to contract them?’ Fine. Don’t use contractions in writing you plan to submit to her magazine, but don’t try to impose that editor’s personal tastes on everyone.)

    “Bonus” answer to the bonus question: I also don’t follow the “rule” against editing as you go.

    3. I don’t do line/copy editing until the “big picture” stuff is fairly set. (There’s no point in correcting the punctuation and grammar in a scene if it may not even be in the story later.) I don’t know if this is considered a rule of editing — I generally ignore what people who specialize in developmental editing say, since that’s not my area of expertise — but it does seem like the most efficient way to go about polishing a manuscript: fix the story first, and then fix the grammar.

    2. I don’t enjoy developmental editing for someone else. I can’t read the author’s mind (not for what they’re willilng to pay me, anyway 🙂 ) and “just know” what they intend for their story, so I can’t know whether what they’ve written achieves that goal. I can tell if what they’ve written works for me as a reader, but much of “what works” in terms of plot and characterization and amount of detail is simply peersonal taste: some readers loved how much description GRRM gave of feasts and whatnot in his novels, and some readers were impatient for the author to get on with the story, already! And neither group was wrong.

    1. The easiest part of editing is polishing the grammar and punctuation. (Whodathunk it? A professional copyeditor enjoying/being good at copyediting? Weird…) I don’t even have to think, really, about most of it. (I can’t not see punctuation errors in something I’m reading.)

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    • 4. I forgot about that rule because I rarely see it being followed. I totally agree with you. Also, it’s weird that people think you can’t edit as you go. If you see something wrong then it’s best to fix it right away instead of risking it sticking around through multiple edits.

      3. That makes sense. I kind of go for both at the same time. By the time I reach an actual editing stage, I’ve gone over the story so many times that there isn’t much to change in that arena. So, grammar, spelling, consistency, and flow are my focuses.

      2. I think that’s really all we can do. Give an opinion from our perspective and the author can do with it as they wish. Early on, I used to take all advice and destroyed my book. Took me about 4 editing runs to get it back to something I could recognize. Such things are typically suggestions, but some people look at them as rules.

      1. I’m the opposite. Easier for me to polish the story and consistency. Grammar and spelling are caught, but I tend to miss things. It’s rather frustrating and I think it’s because my mind is creating the images of the scenes in my head, so I’m focused on that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Give Charles your answers, in the comments under his original blog post

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  6. The easiest/most fun part of editing for me is when it is done
    The hardest/least fun part of editing for me is correcting some upfront problem and then having to search the entire book to make certain the problem isn’t lurking in the back somewhere. (you just know I missed it somewhere)
    A ‘rule of editing’ that I follow is to hire a professional. I can’t handle all the elements of editing myself so I turn it over to someone after I’ve done all I can.
    A ‘rule of editing’ that I don’t follow is to read the book aloud.

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  7. floridaborne says:

    1. I edit when the spirit hits me. h
    2. The hardest part is dissecting my “babies.” I’ve been known to eliminate 3 pages at a time.
    3. My rule is, “Never edit when the creative juices are flowing through the fingers.”
    Bonus: For the commas, periods, colons, semicolons and grammar, I rely on a REAL editor.
    :

    Like

  8. I don’t have 1,2,3 answers today. Looks like you got a lot of action on this post. I tend to edit as I go. I start every writing session by reading what I wrote the last time. That gives me a chance to fix quite a bit. My critique group is a week or two behind me, and I get to go back and give it a second repair. I have a list of words that I search, because they’re frequent typos and such. I kind of hate everything about the editing process, and reserve the right to bitch about it. In the end, it makes the stories easier to digest and that’s a big thing.

    Like

    • Definitely saw a lot of activity here. Seems editing brings out a lot of opinions. It’s hard for me to read everything before every session because I tend to have nearly around 3,000-4,000 words done by the end of a writing day. I skim the last parts to get where every character is. Think most people are in the boat about hating editing. Hence Wednesday’s failed Editing Shop post. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoy revision. It allows me to bring everything into focus that I might have left vague in the interest of just completing the first draft.

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  10. jane tims says:

    What is the easiest/most fun part of editing for you?
    … finding gaps in the narrative and filling those gaps … I guess it is because this is a return to creating
    What is the hardest/least fun part of editing for you?
    ..the tedium of reading aloud … best way to find mistakes but it takes so much time!
    What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you follow?
    … I check every paragraph for words used twice or three times within a few lines… this is a characteristic error of mine…
    Bonus: What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you don’t follow?
    I don’t do a letter by letter proof edit step… sometimes I wish I did!

    Like

  11. Jaq says:

    1. What is the easiest/most fun part of editing for you?

    Reading the story as a whole when I probably haven’t seen the beginning chapters for a while. I will see better ways of saying something in places and making those changes gives me a buzz.

    2. What is the hardest/least fun part of editing for you?
    Fixing inconsistencies. I don’t get a lot of them, but when I do I’m too meticulous to just put a patch on it.

    3. What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you follow?
    We have rules? 😉
    I make my own actually. I go through a book one chapter at a time and read it fresh on my Kindle, then the following day go over it again on computer and make changes as required. I usually have made notes from the reading the night before.

    4. Bonus: What is a ‘rule of editing’ that you don’t follow?
    I don’t read it out loud. It’s a useful method, but I find I relate more to the written page and catch the punctuation that way.

    Like

    • 1. That’s one of the best parts for me. I’m always worried about continuity, so getting the full picture in a short span of time really helps. Figure grammar and spelling can be picked up by anyone who offers to read my book before publishing.

      2. What do you do when you run into those? Not sure if I’d say I patch it, but I change things to fit what’s already been established.

      3. Seems there are many who feel that editing has strict rules. Get the feeling that’s common in many areas of writing though. People create a system and feel it’s the best thing for everyone.

      4. Same here.

      Like

      • Jaq says:

        1. Exactly. I do pick up the typos when I re-read on Kindle though.

        2. It depends what it is. It doesn’t happen often but if I suspect I put a different eye colour on a character than earlier for example, I’ll do a search and see what I said before and make it the same. If it’s in a previous book, I follow the established detail.

        If it’s something more major like a character is suddenly in a different place than where I left them, I’ll contemplate the story and relevant scenes and decide whether I need to rewrite something, add a bit to make them move, or completely change where they are. It’s very unusual for me to lose track of a story that far but if something interrupts me from the writing for a long time, like a deadline on something else, it can happen.

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      • I’ve made the eye color mistake before. It happened between books instead of chapters though. Kept making the mistake, so I had an event happen to make the change permanent.

        I use detailed outlines to keep my place. People aren’t a fan of them, but they work for me.

        Like

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