There are many ways to go about editing a piece of writing, and writers should find the process that best works for them and their style. Though some may highly disagree, I edit while I write. I know, I know. You may have heard that the best way to write is to get all your ideas down first without even thinking of putting your edit hat on. I can’t help it. After I write a scene, I may go back and edit it, or I may leave it alone till next time. So far, I’ve never written something that hasn’t been read over multiple times before I think it’s done. There’s a three stage process that helps me edit: self-edit, beta reading, and listening.
Stage 1: Self-Editing
First, after I think the first draft is done, I will print out the document and do a preliminary edit. This includes asking myself the following questions:
*Does it all make sense?
*Do the scenes flow together?
*Are there any holes I can see?
*Do the characters seem real?
*Any glaring grammar or punctuation problems?
*Do I use one word way too much? If so, where should I take it out or replace?
During this first stage, I also make notes about heightening certain emotions or maybe even writing entirely new scenes, but I usually don’t write anything too substantial until the entire first editing process is complete. Once the first round is done, all the questions have been resolved, and any additional scenes added, I move on to the second stage of editing.
Stage 2: The Beta Reader Round
Beta readers are those wonderful willing friends or family members that volunteer to read the story and give feedback. Usually, not all of these people have a background in editing, but that’s perfectly fine since neither do a lot of my target audience. Plus, if they volunteer, that means that they’re interested in reading–which certainly helps. I give each reader a list of things to focus on during their edit. Not only does this make them think more about the story, but it helps me find out what can stay and what should probably go once I review their critique. If reading a first draft of my novel isn’t motivation enough to become my beta reader, I also promise an acknowledgement in the published version to thank these readers for all their support! Here’s the latest list I’ve sent to my beautiful betas:
1. Rate each chapter on a scale from one to ten–10 being the most interesting
2. Vote for your favorite character and scene
3. Vote for your least fave character/scene
4. Did you fall into any holes of the story? If so, where?
5. What scenes confused you?
6. Did any scenes inspire you?
7. What scenes were too slow? Too fast?
8. Rate the overall level of professionalism of the:
*Plot (does it seem realistic?)
*Characters (could you relate to anyone?)
*Language (was it natural?)
Once I get their opinion, I’ll make even more adjustments to the story. This will then lead to my third stage.
Stage 3: Listening
I recently downloaded the Natural Read app that I’m able to copy/paste my manuscript into and have it read it back to me. Even though the voice sounds mechanic, it still helps to get the voice out of my head, making it easier to be more critical of the words. With this app, I was given a list of accents to read the story. I happened to choose the Australian female voice, since the story is in first person point of view of the main female character. While she may not be Australian in the story, I felt this voice captured more of her spirit than the other ones I heard.
After self-editing, receiving beta-reader feedback, and listening to the story, I will be well on my way to pushing the Publish button on this story and starting the process over with the next project!