Pen & Ink

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Editing Q&A – Part 1

I’m so excited for the first installment of this Editing Q&A! I have gotten some amazing editing questions so far, and it was really fun to answer them for you all!

Today we will discuss some topics such as editing as you write, how to edit a book, how to enjoy editing, and more.

If you haven’t submitted your editing questions yet (or if you have!), please submit more questions through this form, and I will answer your questions next week.

Now, let’s get to the Q&A!

Saraina’s Question

Do you edit as you write? What do you find are the pros and cons of that?

Another great question!

Since I’m a pantser, I typically tend to edit after I finish writing the first draft, and not edit hardly at all as I go. Occasionally, I will go through a scene or a chapter I just wrote and make a few minor edits before moving on, but for the most part, I like to keep my writing and editing separated.

But that’s just me. Honestly, I don’t think there is one right way to do it. For some, editing as you write could be very beneficial and make the writing process easier. For others, editing as you write can be a distraction and isn’t helpful at all.

So what are the pros and cons of both? Let’s take a look at that:

Pros of editing as you write:

  • You can fix your structural mistakes as you go, so that once you finish the manuscript, you won’t find yourself rewriting half of it because of one tiny mistake halfway through.
  • It can be super easy to fix things as you go, and going back and taking care of it can be really simple.

Cons of editing as you write:

  • Editing as you go can distract from actually writing your story, and if you’re prone to perfectionism, then editing as you go can only make things more hard on you.
  • You’re not separating the writing and editing processes, and you’re not taking a break between them. That means, if you go back and edit your problems as you’re still drafting, you may find yourself completely rewriting the sections you changed later, because you haven’t had time to re-evaluate your manuscript before editing it.

Those are some pros and cons of editing as you go… but I think that whether you edit as you write or not is a decision each writer should make for themselves. There’s no right answer.

If you’re a pantser, you might find yourself gravitating more toward not editing as you go. If you’re a plotter, you might find yourself doing the opposite. Whatever sounds good to you, that’s what you should try.

Or you can just try both approaches and see what works. 

Sarah & Sam’s Question

NOTE: I combined two questions to make one, since both questions were very similar.

When you have a final draft of a story/book what’s the best way to edit it? I know there are multiple different ways to edit your story, so which ones do you do? In what order? Because sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming to edit all of the story at once. 

Wow, that is a great question. That’s true, editing a book can feel super overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to do all of the different kinds of edits at once.

So first, let’s break this down into the different sections of editing. Because the best way to edit is not by trying to get it all done in one draft; you will actually probably have three or more drafts! Here are the different types below:

The first draft (a.k.a writing the book)

We’re not going to spend too much time on this one, because it isn’t exactly related to editing. I just wanted to mention it here because this is the very first step of writing a book.

The first draft is what it sounds like: the first draft. It’s your entire novel that you just wrote, with little to no editing done already. Your first draft will likely be very messy, and that’s why we have three different rounds of edits to help clean it up.

Edit #1: The Content Edit

The first edit you’re going to do on your first draft is called the content edit. This is where you will take your first draft, and analyze all the high-level stuff in it, such as the plot and characters.

During the content edit, you won’t be spending much time on your sentence structure, grammar, or even seperate paragraphs. You will only be looking at the structure of your story, deciding what story elements should go, and which ones should stay.

Edit #2: The Line Edit

Line edits are the most difficult for me. After you’ve finished the content edit on your book, you will go through each chapter, paragraph, and sentence one-by-one and fix things such as sentence structure, word choice, and paragraph flow.

Line edits can be difficult because you have to look very closely at each sentence. There are a lot of things you’ll have to watch for while your doing line editing, like too much use of one word, confusing sentences, and unnecessary paragraphs.

I want to clarify, though, that line editing is NOT grammar editing. You will not be deliberately looking for spelling, grammar, or typo mistakes. You will only be looking at the structure of your lines.

Edit #3: The Grammar Edit

Now, once you’re done with the line edit, you can move on to grammar editing. This does mean looking for spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. I would recommend using an online tool like Grammarly for this edit, as it makes it go a lot faster.

So those are the three main kinds of editing: content editing, line editing, and grammar editing. It’s actually very important that you do not do these edits out of order. They should all be done in the order listed here, otherwise your story will be left with a lot of problems.

And the good thing about all this is that you don’t have to edit everything all at once! Once your first draft is finished, you can go through the three different edits. And taking breaks between each edit is also a good idea too. At the very least, I would recommend taking a break between the first draft and the content edit, to give yourself some time to look at the story with fresh perspective. But it also doesn’t hurt to take a break between the content edit and the line edit, or the line edit and the grammar edit, as that can also make the editing process feel way less overwhelming and crazy.

I also wrote an article on this topic a while back, so if you want to go more in-depth, then check that out! NOTE: That article I wrote was written a long time ago, when I was a much less experienced writer. None of the information in the article is incorrect, but please note that a few of my opinions at that time were not the best.

Emily’s Question

Is there a way to enjoy editing, aside from being naturally inclined to it?

That is a great question. Editing is hard work, and while it can be enjoyable for some people, for others, it’s just a pain.

Even though I enjoy editing, I also struggle with it sometimes. And sometimes I have to remind myself to stay motivated, even when it’s hard. For me, keeping editing fun all the time is still hard. But I do have a few ways that make editing, overall, a more enjoyable process, even when I don’t feel like doing it.

Here are some ways to enjoy editing more enjoyable:

  • Come up with an editing goal. Goals in general can help you accomplish great things. Creating a goal for your editing can help it feel more fun, like a challenge. Do you want to edit 1000 words a day? A chapter a day? Get your editing done by the end of the month? Create those goals for yourself, and you’ll start becoming a lot more motivated.
  • Remind yourself of your original writing goal. What is your goal with the book you’re editing? To publish it? To complete it? As you’re going through the editing process, remind yourself of your goal. Remind yourself of how good it will feel once you complete that goal, and that will help you push through and enjoy the editing process more.
  • Take a break. Sometimes you just have to take a step back from the book you’re editing and work on a different project. Work on drafting some short stories, writing in a different genre, or just doing something different. Sometimes changing things up helps you feel motivated when you come back to your editing. 
  • Print your manuscript. Just having a paper copy of your manuscript can make editing it feel so much more fun. You can feel the pages, see the structure, and act like you’re holding the actual published copy of your book. Switching from editing on the computer to editing on paper can make a big difference for some people.
  • Find the best time and place to edit. Not enjoying editing can be partially due to not knowing the right time and place to work on it. Are you always somewhere noisy, where you get frustrated because you can’t focus? Find a quiet place. Are you always trying to write in the evening, when you’re too tired to get any work done? Try switching to the morning. Find the time and place that works for your editing, and stick to it.

So those are a few of my tips for making editing more enjoyable. Remember that editing isn’t an easy process, and if you aren’t naturally inclined to it, it can be hard to push through. But with perseverance, any writer can do it.

Sarah’s Question

When you edit a book and come across something that you don’t know if it is proper or improper Grammar, what would be the best way to find out? 

Well, you could always let the author of the book know that you’re not sure if it is correct grammar or not, and maybe they would know. But that’s not always the best way to do it, because the author might not know either.

So, I would recommend Googling it. (Believe it or not, I actually do this all the time hehe…) Just search “is such-and-such word proper grammar”, or basically whatever you need to know.

Or, the third solution is to install a grammar-checking app. (Such as Grammarly.) I’m not saying that those software applications are always right, but they can catch things that you might not see, and it can be really helpful.

So, bottom line: use the internet to find out. 😉

Wow. We got some amazing questions, everyone. Honestly, it was really fun answering all of these! Hopefully I gave you all enough information to help you with your editing. 😉

The form is still open for more questions, so please feel free to submit more, and I’ll answer them next week. Just click on this link to send your questions.

I hope you all enjoyed this post! Just leave a comment below, telling me your thoughts!

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3 responses to “Editing Q&A – Part 1”

  1. Saraina Whitney Avatar

    Ooo, girl, you gave some AWESOME tips!!! Thank you so much for the post!! And I SO agree that a print copy of the manuscript is so much more fun. Just holding it and flipping through the pages makes me feel like Anne of Green Gables with her books haha! 😉 😀

  2. Rose Q. Addams Avatar
    Rose Q. Addams

    On that last note… I’ve generally had a decent time with grammar, as it was one of the school subjects that came more naturally to me. But I’ll tell you what: I’ve had to use the internet for some of my biggest kind-of-grammar-but-not-quite confusions (Such as “how do you put numbers in something… do you spell them out, or use their numeral?”), and a lot of other people had the same problem, thank heaven, so answers were readily available.

    1. Annabelle Avatar

      Yeah, that is totally relatable to me too! I feel like I am decent at grammar, but there have been a few times where I’ve needed to resort to Google. XD