I try to keep my blog informative and fun but sometimes I definitely want to write more towards fellow writers or even to those who are considering taking up writing. Whichever you are (and maybe you’re neither but still like to come by and read my beautiful words), I hope today’s post will be beneficial.
If I had to estimate, I would say 40 percent of my writing experience is creating new content. The other 60 percent is editing and revising. I can often come up with new ideas quickly and hash out that first rough draft quickly with all the burrs and nicks. In my experience, editing and revising are essential steps in the process of polishing a story to be ready to read. Big rule for writers: Don’t let anyone read your rough draft. Just don’t. I know you’re excited to share your recent story and want someone else to love it as much as you. Unlikely. Just being honest.
In reality, your rough draft is not going to be good. It may have parts that work really well but there will be wordiness and clunky dialogue more often than not. Unfortunately…this goes beyond the rough draft. For the love of all things sweet and shiny, I am seeing horrible mistakes in my fourth revision of my book! Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to really chisel, sand, and polish before your story is ready to be read by another person.
I’ve been thinking about a system for myself and my own writing when it comes to editing and revising. What would work best as I go through the process of making it worth reading and not come away having to answer a hundred questions of why this is that or what does that mean? After a few questions like this, you start to question whether or not you acted prematurely in your earlier years. So, I’ll preface this plan by saying I have not followed this yet. This is merely my plan going forward with future books I write. (Note: This is prone to change as I go through the process.)
Start: The rough draft is the beginning–the blank canvas. That’s blank pages being filled in with whatever the writer’s mind is creating. Notes and little ideas of setting and characters are implemented here depending on your level of preparation. If you outline, then it’s easier but if you prefer the “go and flow” method, then the rough draft will have a definite coarse feel to it.
1st Edit/Revision: This should be done after you’ve finished the whole story. Beginning and end have to be in place (write down any notes of things you want to change and plan to add, adjust, or delete after the story is done). Resist the urge to go back and make corrections to page 10 when you are on page 230. Until then, those changes you thought of while writing the rough draft should not be implemented. Look for any grammatical errors as well. Do not skip these.
2nd Edit/Revision: By this time, you know the story very well. You could probably recite the whole thing to someone. On this pass, I start looking at details. Look for descriptions (characters, world, culture, themes, etc.) and make sure these are consistent throughout the story. You are layering now.
3rd Edit/Revision: Step back and don’t look at or work on the story for at least a month. If you are on a deadline, then I recommend some look-ahead planning. When you come back to your story, you will see things you don’t like and will want to change. Have at it! One thing you may notice is wordiness. Be willing to cut where it needs to be. Rearrange some sentences if you need to. Make it flow!
4th Edit/Revision: Read out loud. I’ll be honest here. I have not done this to a great degree but as I progress forward in my own writing, I have a plan to start reading my stories out loud to myself (not another soul in earshot!). Why do this? Because you will notice things. Word flow will read bloated or stuffy. You want flow. Whether read in your head or out loud to a room full of listeners, you want your words to be silky smooth.
5th Edit/Revision: (I know, I know. Almost there.) Now, you might be tired of your story. In fact, you are going to have doubts about it. Before you convince yourself it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, take a breath and relax. You’ve put in the work and it should be ready to be read by others. Find readers. I would recommend friends and family who will be honest with you (not always easy to do but you should have some). Make sure to tell them they need to be honest. They do you no favors if they tell you you’re writing is the second coming of Tolkien, Dickens, or Milton (it likely won’t be).
Finally, take whatever feedback you get and apply those changes where you deem necessary. Sometimes, you won’t always agree with the suggestions and that’s okay. Preferences in readers is not gospel. Don’t let it be.
There it is. This is my editing and revising plan for myself. There are other details but seeing as how this is a long blog post, I’ll leave it there. Writing requires patience, effort, discipline, and the will to finish. Being creative is not enough. I did not know this when I first started and discovered it along the way.
Call to Action: If you’re a writer or want to write, I’d suggest tucking this post away for reference. There are plenty of other writers out there with different methods and probably even wrote books on the topic. Find what works for you and stick with it. Make changes along the way if you need to. If you’re another writer and stumbled over here and have different methods, please share! I’m always looking for ways to improve.