The Editing Cycle

You’ve written your book and capped it off with a “The End.” So, that means you’re finished, right? Wrong! You’re only just getting started! It would certainly be nice if just writing the book was all you had to do, because I can whip out a full-length novel in about a month if I’m really in the zone. Unfortunately, I’ve spent far longer than a month working on a “finished” novel trying to get it into the proper shape for release.

This is where the editing cycle comes in. It’s the part of writing where you have your story written out and now it’s time to read through it over and over and over until you tease out all the little mistakes and errors, trim the excess fat that doesn’t add anything to the story, and flesh out the things that you glossed over the first time. This cycle can be long, tedious, and dull. Even if your story is enjoyable and you enjoy reading it, you’ll start to feel a bit different after you get ready to start reading it again for the tenth time. Even so, this part of the writing process is absolutely necessary. It’s almost impossible to write a truly good story without doing this. Even if you write very slowly and stop after each sentence or paragraph to ensure everything is good, having the complete novel in front of you and reading it all the way through gives you the bigger picture and allows certain things to stick out more so than they would in the initial writing phase.

Some of my best ideas have come long after the novel is finished and even long after I’ve done one or my editing passes. Just writing out the story really quickly and then reading through it really quickly will cause you to miss important things that need to be fixed or fleshed out, that’s why a long editing process is important. Slow and deliberate, allowing you to see how the book fits together and how you can improve your work. Having someone else come in and read your book can be helpful at this point, as well, since they can provide a fresh perspective that’s not clouded by the immediacy of being involved in the writing progress.

However, don’t depend on someone else to solve all your problems for you. You are still the writer and you know best what you want from your story. Take the advice of others and use your own judgement, applying what they tell you against your own ideas. Read through your book a dozen times if you have to, digging deep for the things that need attention. Keep working through the cycle and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a much more polished work.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Editing Cycle

  1. Editing is indeed as important to writing as getting the draft on paper (or computer). It isn’t only about finding and correcting errors, though there always seem to be plenty of those regardless of how diligent I think I am as I write. Editing is as much about filling out the story, connecting the dots, paring away unnecessary words–even paragraphs. Others can read a draft and spot typos. Lots of others should be enlisted to do so. Others can also point out the “I don’t get it” places, the “something is missing here” sections. But only the author can knit, trim, even expand the story until it stands before him or her balanced on it’s own structure. In that sense, editing is still creating. It is still writing.

  2. I definitely agree with you there. I had a story that I was absolutely convinced was 100% completed, then during another round of editing, I ended up cutting out nearly 100 pages of content that I was suddenly able to see as being unnecessary, giving me a leaner, faster-paced read without actually sacrificing anything important. This cycle is what takes the sparkling rock and turns it into a diamond.

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