Friday Forum: Editing Theory

As we all know, editing is crucial to creating a well-written novel. (We do all know that, right?) Our heroine once hated, dreaded and generally avoided editing and rewrites in any way she could, dear Reader. Now she understands the process and dives in with abandon. Don’t get me wrong. There’s always more to learn and I stay open to new ideas and thoughts on the subject. Learning how others evaluate their work gives me ideas for tweaking my own process.

It’s easy to say that the editing process turns the rough stone you created into a bright shiny gemstone. Why do we do it? How do we do it? There are as many answers to those questions as there are writers. Tired to say it, but it’s true. Even as a beginner in the world of editing, you put your own spin on things. I put together an article early on in this blog titled Simple Editing Techniques for Any Style. It’s nothing more than some things I learned that work for me. I hope they either work for you or that they inspire you to tweak your own method.

That brings us back to the simple question of why. Why do we edit? I found a couple of great articles on the subject. One writer inspired the other, in fact. Both are on great blogs.

The first is on Editor Unleashed by Maria Schneider and is titled Is Editing Worth It? She gives some of her own thoughts on the subject. The bulk of the material is in the comments after she poses the question to her readers. It’s a great read and a good way to find out what your fellow writers think on the matter.

The second was written after Isabel Joely Black, of In These Heels?, had read a post “by Maria Schneider on the value of editing.”  It’s titled The Value of Editing (but not obsessively). She details some observations and applies them to her own work. Explaining why she edits as she does is perhaps the most important part I took away from the article. The value she’s found in editing is conveyed well.

Chances are good you were already sold on concept of editing your work when you walked into the Forum today. The above links probably served to reinforce why it is we do what we do. What is that exactly? Kill the passive voice, find your repetitions (I have a crate of “just” handy if anyone needs, that’s my bugaboo) and get rid of them, look for lagging bits to tighten. If that’s all it takes, why is editing such a difficult process?

Patricia Stoltey wrote a marvelous article titled Charting the Novel Story Arc, an installment of Blood-Red Pencil‘s series called Self-Editing One Step At a Time. Clearly, it’s a series you’ll want to explore. This portion of it struck me in particular, though. It’s a terrific way to look at your novel and quickly identify problem areas. Soggy middle? Erratic pacing? You’ll see it straight away with this process of evaluation. Moreover, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s meant by an arc in the first place.

I found another of Anthony J. Barnett‘s articles, this time on Hub Pages, which dovetails with the subject du jour. Titled 20 Top Tips for Editing That Novel, it’s a handy checklist of the process he uses. He says that “good novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten.” You’ll hear that sentiment in a variety of forms from most people in the writing and publishing game. Why? Because it’s true, it’s no cliché. Anthony generously shares the issues he addresses when editing a novel. There’s a plenty of good information here, so be ready to be inspired.

I’ve also found that fine-tuning my plotting process helps me edit, especially where rewriting or restructuring is indicated. At the moment, I’m cleaning up the third book in my series. Rediscovering Johanna Harness‘s Big Board process is a great tool in this. It’s helping me see the elements in a tangible manner and allowing me to move them, add detail and add depth to what’s already written.

I’m still finding my way in the great world of editing. I suspect that every writer develops a special technique that becomes tried and true. Is every writer open to new ideas? I’d like to think the answer is that most are. What techniques work for you? Please, let everyone know by leaving a comment below. I’d love for us to share new editing methods.

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11 thoughts on “Friday Forum: Editing Theory

  1. Jeff Cocking December 11, 2009 at 12:23 am Reply

    Thanks. I’ll be editing my NaNovel soon, so this will be useful. I’ve edited one manuscript before, but I didn’t do it systematically, and certainly didn’t know what I was doing. These techniques you’ve linked to should help me do a proper job this time.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen December 11, 2009 at 2:22 pm Reply

      I’m glad these are useful to you. Thanks for taking a moment to comment, Jeff. Having a plan of attack when it comes to editing makes the difference between a hateful task and a pleasure. I love watching the story begin to gleam. I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing the results with your NaNovel. Please keep me in the loop about it.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen

      Like

  2. […] Friday Forum: Editing Theory Jessica Rosen is full of good links as usual. This week it is about editing your rough stone into a bright shiny gemstone. […]

    Like

  3. Annarkie December 14, 2009 at 7:49 am Reply

    So bookmarking this. Thanks!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen December 14, 2009 at 8:13 am Reply

      How cool! Thank you for letting me know it’s helpful.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen

      Like

  4. writingonthesidewalk December 15, 2009 at 4:47 pm Reply

    Wow! What a great source for information. Thanks for the great links.

    Suzanne Santillan

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen December 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm Reply

      Thanks, Suzanne. Feedback is a great thing. I do appreciate your taking a moment and letting me know.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen

      Like

  5. Patricia Stoltey January 5, 2010 at 2:17 am Reply

    Hi Jessica, I just ran across your blog and the kind mention of my self-editing series on The Blood-Red Pencil. Thanks so much!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen January 5, 2010 at 2:43 am Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Patricia. The series is great. Always a pleasure to share these morsels with my friends.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen

      Like

  6. Irene Vinyard Bennett February 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm Reply

    Thank YOU for helpful links! for revising my NaNoMo novel. Stephen King first inspired me about rewriting when he wrote that he writes a story, puts it away to “cool,” and then reads it while asking himself what did I write about? The answer is the theme he then recrafts the story around. Isn’t that a neat approach? Works for me!

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    • Jessica Rosen February 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm Reply

      That is a great approach, you’re right. I’m guilty of not allowing a project to cool long enough at times. Never fails that when I finally leave it alone for a while and go back to it later, the polishing comes easily.

      I’m glad the links were useful, Irene. Thanks for stopping by.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen

      Like

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