Self-Torture. . .I mean Editing

October 17, 2007 at 11:39 am | Posted in Bria, editing, self-editing, writing | 4 Comments

Completed Manuscript Draft – Check
Printed Copy – Check
Colorful pens, highlighters and page markers – Check
Empty Notebook – Check
Sanity – I’ll get back to you 

At this moment, countdowning until I open the proverbial drawer and pull my draft of the YA Fantasy out for its next run thru. It’s been written, it’s been reviewed — heck it’s even been requested and rejected once (deep sigh) but now it’s time for it to be polished and synopsisized (look, another new form of the word!) 

The frightening thing is, the longer it sits in the drawer, the more flaws I see. The more scenes (full scenes!) I see that need a complete re-write. The more underdeveloped some of my major themes feel. The less clear the motives appear. 

I’m also nervous because someone I respect has it, and I know there are complete parts that are going to get cut and re-written – – – not a doubt in my mind at least 30% of the MS is not going to appear as it is now. I feel like I’m wasting a resource her looking at it now. Not to mention the rough draft I got back yesterday from Kaige – let’s just say it was even rougher than I thought it was. 

So, Friday the self-torture, I mean editing, begins.  

While Critique Partners are important, S-E is vital for a couple of reasons. I think the two most important are it’s your baby and your voice. If you’re going to be an author, you should be growing your skills, getting better with each sweep of the keyboard at creating a flawless MS – one that is yours, not a group of people creating your idea. The other, Voice, seems just as important to me. If you’ve read this blog for awhile, it’s probably quickly became apparent that three of us post here – Jessica on Monday, me on Wednesday, and Meg on Friday — all of us write completely different genres and have very different voices. I love that about us. 

If you’re new at this, I strongly suggest you have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, get one. Why, because self-editing isn’t just about correcting where the comma is, it’s about making the story stronger — tighter, giving it better flow, continuity, word choice, total re-writes of bad scenes, throwing away scenes you love but don’t move the story forward. It’s about making it the best it can be, and not an inch less. 


First: I’ve asked myself what I hoped to accomplish in my story.  Wrote them down and color coded them.  Each time a inch toward a theme it gets a colored tab – Faela has a prophetic dream (whether she realizes/understands it or not) a blue sticky tab goes on the top of the page. Why? Her dreams are a key to one of my themes, when I saw I had been overlooking them for almost 100 pages, I knew theme reparation had to occur. 

Second: Continuity. I’m huge on continuity, and the more well written the book, the more I expected it. I want my first thing out there to be flawless in this regard. SO, every time I have a question about continuity (timeline, character description, object placement, past words said/echoed) a pink tab goes on the right-hand side of the page. I’m not going to pull myself out of the S-E zone to look it up now. 

Third: Is asking if each scene needed. On the read-thru before putting the MS away, I cut a complete chapter. It was one of my favorite scenes, but the MS is too long and this scene was about the secondary characters. It didn’t move the story forward. There was nothing that couldn’t have happened off the page. It got cut. I sighed deeply. 

Fourth: Checking my Characters. Are my characters clearly described? Do they act within their personalities? Does their eye color change? If they have a quirk, it should stay with them, not change without a reason, and be clear what it represents. Do the interpersonal relationships make sense and stay consistent? 

Then I really get down to work. 

Crutches – words, phrases, actions we overuse. I deleted 2 pages of ‘that’ and stopped everyone from nodding. Yes, people in real life nod a lot, but not on the page. 

Personally, one of the hardest corrections on my own MS is grammar. I’m not bad spotting it on other people’s works, but in my own — not so much. I get sucked into the story and the writing and the characters and the motivations and the themes and the. . . .you get the idea. And grammar slides lower and lower and lower.  On my final read-thru I’ll be doing a lovely reverse read. Starting with the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last page of the last chapter — yes, the very last — I’ll re-read the entire MS, backward. This helps you from getting sucked in and makes your mind read something that isn’t logical creates an open space to spot errors. 

Having a guide for your S-E journey is important as well. I have two:

Stephanie Bond (who, if you read our blog, you’ve seen me refer to numerous times) has a great guide to S-E at: 
If you have access to RWA conference tapes, buy a copy of Laurie Brown’s “Self-Editing for Success.” She walks you through the process step by tiny little step. 

I’d love to hear what your writing crutch is. Too many thats? Repetition (the two twins)? Lately I’ve been finding a lot of quites and  odds. That had to stop. So tell me, what do you need to polish? Then, Go Write



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  1. “The frightening thing is, the longer it sits in the drawer, the more flaws I see.”

    Bria, ya gotta stop using those x-ray vision goggles. They distort everything! Out of sight, out of mind! I hope when you do pull it out on Friday you get some pleasant surprises where you read a passage and can go, “WOW! I wrote that?! That rocks!”

    Crutches… my favorite one is “interesting” — a good, all purpose adjective. =P What needs the most polish for me I think is still my plotting. Getting from point A, to point B, to point C and having it all not just make sense, but mean something too!

  2. Bria,

    Pop a Mountain Dew or two and relax. I’d suggest locking your editing equipment and your internal editor(s) in the truck of your car or a trusted friend’s. Then, with a Dew and some munchies within reach, read your YA. No critiquing allowed. No obsessing about what needs to be fixed. Just enjoy your accomplishment. Then reclaim your editing stuff and internal editor(s) and put them to work.

    Some of my crutches are that, a bit, was and just. It’s going to be challenging cutting some of them during edits.


  3. Mine is back story. I rely on it way too much. Actually my blog at Tales this week is about that very subject but I called it my writing Achilles heel.

  4. […] Margie Lawson’s ‘Deep EDITing’ course. Run as fast as you can to go take that class! Self-Editing is vital to […]

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