Editing Woes: Tips and Tricks

Hey wonderful readers!

I started editing the second draft of my novel again after a bit of a hiatus. I was stuck on a passage that I wasn’t sure on how I wanted it to look. The other day, I decided that it didn’t matter. This isn’t the final copy of the book. The purpose of this edit is give me some more options in regards to this specific passage. I will have lots of time to do more editing and find a passage that works best for the scene.

However, with that focus on my novel, I didn’t get a chance to finish reading the book I wanted to for my review. Rather than let that get me down, I decided to do something different for my post this week.

The other night, I was hanging out with my dad at a family supper. I was telling him about editing my novel and he mentioned that self-editing is difficult. I agreed. It is hard to edit your own work. You know what you want to say, so your brain will make unexpected leaps to cover the empty spaces you left behind. Then, I started telling him about all the tips and tricks that I have gathered over the years to help me in this process. He hadn’t heard of some of them.

So, I decided that I could share them with all of you too. Maybe there is something that will help you.

I will say that I won’t be able to give credit where it is due. I’m not even sure where I picked up most of these tricks. The majority of the sources that I found them on are probably secondary anyway. So if you see something in my list that should be credited to a specific person or place, please let me know. 

Tips and Tricks to Edit Your Work

  • You need something to edit
    • This tip technically isn’t about editing. However, it is the most important tip because you can’t edit a blank page. This was literally my mantra as I worked on my first draft.
    • This was the hardest part for me. I wanted to edit my unfinished draft to death. I have killed other drafts of work this way before. So, I changed all the previous text of my work to white, except the last sentence. This kept me on track as I wasn’t able to go back and edit the previous pages. I had one or two sentences to start me off and I just had to go with it.
  • Give the draft some time 
    • Once you finish that first draft, LEAVE IT ALONE. I had spent so much time for months finishing my first draft, that I gave it a year before I went back. In hindsight, that was a bit too long, but I was making it up as I went. You don’t need to give it that much time. You might only need a day away or six weeks or eight months, but that distance is important. Set the draft aside and think about something else until you decide to pick it up again.
    • This may seem counter intuitive, but it gives your brain some time to relax, to let the work settle. When you come back to it, there will be things that you can catch because you didn’t just finish writing it. This also gives you some emotional distance from the work, which is important going forward.
  • Change the colour or font of your text 
    • Once you ready to edit, the tricky part starts. How do you catch those pesky errors when your brain is automatically filling in the blanks? You knew what you meant to say, so you are quickly moving through the work, missing the obvious because your brain is looking for glaring errors.
    • Change the text up (font or colour). I find this useful for essays in my university classes. I don’t often get to give those time between writing and editing. Changing it up tricks my brain into thinking that it is looking at something new. It isn’t the same essay I have been working on for hours. It is a new pretty pink one that has a whole other font.
  • Read it out loud
    • I’m sure that everyone has heard this one before, but it is really helpful. If there is a passage that you are stuck on, read it out loud. You can read it to yourself or someone else. If it is a small passage you don’t mind sharing, I recommend reading it to someone else. I find if I am reading to someone, I consider the text more carefully to make sure that I don’t mess up. This way, you read what is actually there, instead of what you think should be. It helps with those smaller errors and hard to read sentences.
    • Bonus of sharing it with someone is that you have someone to bounce ideas around with if that passage is giving you a hard time. Either way, reading it out loud can help you find the part that is bugging you because you are hearing it, rather than just automatically going over the same information that you have read a million times before.
  • BONUS: Use Google Translate 
    • This is my favourite trick for my university essays and I use it all the time.
    • Depending on the length (5000 character max), copy and paste your work or chunks of your work into Google Translate. Once it is in there, press the speaker button in the bottom left corner. It will read your work out loud to you.
    • NOTE: Make sure that you click that button in the language of your choosing, which I’m going to assume is English if you are reading this. Hearing it in French won’t help unless you wrote it in French.
    • I find this actually works better than reading out loud. Why? Because Google Translate doesn’t fill in the blanks or automatically fix the same errors like your mind does. Listening to the monotone Google voice read your work, you are forced to hear when your sentences are weird or you used than instead of that. You get to catch those small errors that your brain fixes as you scan the work. It is awesome.
  • Finally, start from scratch 
    • I can already sense that everyone is wondering what the heck I’m talking about. If you spent months on something, why would you start all over again? But hear me out!
    • When I finished my first draft of my novel, I did the cursory read through and mark down edits. Then I read something that you should trying rewriting the story. I was gobsmacked. It took me almost three years to write the first draft and now you want me to start all over? But then, I read the reasoning behind this crazy idea.
    • Before I tell you the reasoning, here are some tips for this trick.
      • First, don’t use your actual first draft. Do the basic editing techniques, like checking for grammar and spelling errors. There is no point in worrying about these things as you do a complete rewrite. The draft you are using should be as spotless as possible, so you don’t get hung up on the little things.
      • Second, keep your previous draft nearby to use as a guide as you begin this journey. You aren’t scrapping all that hard work. It is the perfect template to move forward. I personally put my second draft and my new draft side by side. I use the second draft all the time as I do the complete rewrite.
    • So now the why. When you read your first draft, there may be issues that you see, but aren’t sure how to fix in the context of a 100-some page draft. “How can I deal with this glaring issue if I move on to something else right after?” You might note it in your editing process, but you also might never come back to it.
    • Doing a complete rewrite takes away that pressure of what is coming next. Instead of another 30,000 words that comes after, you have a blank page. You can add anything that you want because there is no pressure of fitting it into the already written work. Nothing comes after what you are currently writing. You get the benefit of already finishing a first draft and still getting to pretend that you are writing one. You can toss all the editing rules out and focus on fixing the big issues with your work.
    • For me, I realized that my main character’s friend base was pretty slim, but there was a perfect opportunity waiting for her to have someone outside of the main plot to share things with. I never would have found the place for that new character if I had not tried this technique.
    • This is the trick that I have been wrapped up in lately. I’ve been working on getting through my third draft, which is my complete rewrite. I’ve finally pushed through that sticky section and am moving on. After all, I have a whole lot of blank pages to fill!

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may start using any of these techniques and realize that you don’t like it. That’s fine. Stop using it. It is your work and you can do with it what you will. There is no harm in trying something and realizing that it doesn’t work. You might get halfway through a complete rewrite and realize that it is not working for you. That’s fine. You don’t have to delete the work you did. Keep it and find something that works for you. I just wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that work for me.

Have you tried any of these before? What did you think? Are there any editing tips and tricks that you swear by? Share them in the comments below!


One thought on “Editing Woes: Tips and Tricks

  1. Pingback: July Wrap Up – All is Fair in Love and Writing

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