I have 2 types of editing I do. One is the “technical” editing of words, grammar, punctuation, etc. I (like many writers apparently) pretty much hate this part of editing. It needs to be done and I know that. *But I hates it. (*Gollum’s voice there)
So I get myself through it by brute force. I start at the end and take it one sentence at a time. Occasionally, I’ll print a page off (double-spaced) and red-pen mark up the grammar. I have even been known to diagram a sentence to prove to myself I’m not being grammatically evil (or I am because I want to be evil).
I find by working backwards, I don’t get caught up (errr… usually don’t get caught up) reading what I wrote. This is the danger. Reading is much more fun than editing and if allowed, my brain will begin reading what I’ve been writing and sinking back into the story and characters and world. It’s trudging drudgery but I can slog my way upstream (pun intended!) by starting at the end and working my way up.
In some ways, that is the easier kind of editing. There are hard-and-fast rules for grammar. The second kind of editing is “Content” – and Content is King.
Content editing is everything from “did I use a thesauraus – or does it sound/feel like I did” to plot to character relationships to themes and “oh shit, that is totally not the message I want to send!”
Content editing is damn hard. Content editing requires WORK. There are no rules. And there are. Consistency is a huge rule.
My family was laughing at me when we gathered for Mother’s Day brunch because I brought a piece of paper I’ve been making noodles and notes on. I kept holding up this paper at people (which looks like a picture to most people) and saying “Can’t you tell I’m making a plot line!” I thought it was hilarious because to anyone not me it looks like a bunch of lines with random words and numbers jotted around it. But to me it’s plot and world building and even some character arcs in there (yes, this is a continuation of my post on magic)
I don’t have as good a method for this. I frequently chew on plot for a long time. WHY is a big question in my content-editing. WHY is the protagonist the person changing the world. WHY are they “the chosen one”- I love when there is a prophecy that actually could fit some % of the world but the protagonist is the one who ends up there for…. REASONS. Those reasons drive much of my world building, character arc, etc. “Why does she think SHE is supposed to fix it” and “what in her life led her to believe this totally opposite thing from society?”
Sometimes I end up doing full re-writes because I have so much I have to fix I think I might as well start over. This particular magic-based-plot is on version 3. Version 1 rambled through 3 different villains (I kept trying to “redeem” people) for about 25,000 words. Version 2 is a messy 98,000 words. If I was a better writer (or editor as the case may be) I might be able to edit it into the place I want it – but I’m not. I don’t know how to edit the giant swaths of Version 2 that would need to be edited. And some of them are pretty significant plot points that need to be built up or torn down or some of both.
So I’m starting version 3. With all the plot building, magic system, character building, and world information I’ve built over the previous 2 versions. This is my method. I don’t think it’s the best (certainly not the most efficient) but it’s mine. I can read-edit and make plot-notes, comments, etc. but when it comes to going back and polishing a plot-arc…. damn that’s hard to do!