In Which I Blog about Past Learnings

Poor, poor neglected blog. I haven’t tended to it since Halloween and I can see the dust bunnies frolicking all over it. Shoo! There is writing to be done!

When last we met on October 31, I was in the middle of my first official editing project. I started this blog with the intention of scrawling out editing tips and things I’ve learned. Now, I’m still pretty green at this whole editing thing – editing one book does not a professional make – and there is plenty for this padawan editor to learn.

You may be familiar with structural edits and line edits. These concepts were completely foreign to me. Before this last project, if you handed me a manuscript, I would’ve read it (a few times, to let it marinate in me noggin for a wee bit), then circled back to Chapter One and just edit anything and everything – this is spelled incorrectly, why is the character acting like this when…*scrolls ahead*…5 chapters later they do this? – and I would do this until I reached the words ‘The End.’

For the love of all the literary gods, DO NOT DO THIS TO YOURSELF, EVER. This makes for a painstaking editing process. I did this originally because it was the only process I knew. At the day job, I typically work with content that averages about 400-500 words or less. Just plow through it, right? The process should translate well for a project that’s 75,000+ words long, right? Right??

Oh my heavens, no.

Enter the blessed structural edit phase. Sure, you may open the manuscript and see a grievous misspelling on page one. It calls out to you. Taunts you. “Fix me, if you dare!” But steel yourself, friends…ignore its siren call for correction. You’ll deal with it and all its ilk later during the line editing phase.

When you’re at the structural edit phase, you need to go big before you go small. You’re looking at the story, from beginning to end, and quality testing it. You ask things like:

  • How’s the pacing? Is it rushing? Dragging?
  • How are the characters? Are they acting out of character?
  • How is the plot? Does it logically make sense?
  • How are the characters talking? Do the conversations make sense?
  • How’s the POV? Are we switching heads at all?

If anything strikes you as a red flag, now’s the time to address it. Maybe there’s a scene missing that you didn’t consider before. Maybe you don’t even need a scene any more. Just focus on the big picture of your story first before you start messing with the nitty-gritty details.

Once you’ve addressed all the red flags, break out the fine-toothed comb, because it’s line editing time. Now you can correct that page one misspelling – the one that’s been mocking you for days (that dick). But there are other things to look for:

  • Does your dialogue sound okay?
  • Are you overusing words or phrases?
  • Do you favor super long sentences (that start to get distracting)?
  • Is your voice consistent throughout the manuscript?

Line editing is the phase where you really pay attention to what you’ve written. If you have the time after the structural editing phase, take a break before you get into the line edits. It’ll help give you a new perspective on your project if you look at it with fresh eyes.

Also, bring chocolate (or equivalent noms). It’s not safe to edit without it.