The Secret to an Efficient First Edit

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Editing ad infinitum - How Do You Survive?

Congratulations! You’ve just completed your novel, thesis or other long and demanding writing effort. Now it is the time to make sure the finished work will shine. Every advice in the blogosphere tells you that this is the most important part of the process of writing. And they are quite right. You should invest your time into editing properly.

However, in the quest for perfection, it might happen that you’ll never reach the level that suffices your inner critique. Reading your text again and again, you start to wonder whether you should reorder you chapters, rewrite the entire text to a different point of view, kill a character here and there…

It is easy to prolong editing into infinity. And we all know what the result of that is, don’t we? Yes, another manuscript in the drawer (or in that bulging folder on your PC titled “My Novel”).

So how do you survive the first edit?

Four Secrets of an Efficient First Edit

Make yourself a plan. You did one for writing the manuscript, didn’t you? Without a clear roadmap it’s so easy to end up rambling in the woods.

First edit is the beginning. You can and will return to the text after it, so now you can be fast and furious.

The best would be to arrange a beta reader to read the manuscript right after the first edit. Then you would get an outsider opinion when you’ve fixed the worst errors, but before you’ve spent days and days on polishing something that might end up in the bin anyway.

So, let’s plan for the first edit:

  1. Decide your goals. You can’t tackle everything, so pick the most important editing goals. At this point we are talking about substantive or developmental editing. What needs fundamental editing? The flow? The plot? The POV?
  2. Determine the time needed. How much time do you need to reach the goals you set for yourself? Be realistic and cut off goals if necessary. Then allocate each editing point the time you think it deserves.
  3. Carry out the job. Edit, edit and edit – but no more than you gave yourself time.
  4. Never look back. This was the first edit. Now you’ve tackled the most pressing issues of your manuscript. It’s time for the second opinion – get your beta reader ready and send the manuscript in for comments.

Susan

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