So you finished your first draft. Maybe it was just finishing, maybe its December or January and you’ve finished the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. Either way, now you have a document in front of you. Its rough and maybe even scarier then the blank page was because what the hell are you meant to do now?
The task of writing editing may be scary as hell but here are four easy steps that will help you get your editing down!
1. Put it away! But don’t forget about it. Right after you finish take a week and just don’t look at it. Mark it down in your calendar for a week. Coming back to it with fresh eyes is going to help when you do look at it again. You can use this time to make a schedule if you want. I personally try and edit two chapters a day and make a chart in my bullet journal and when write the chapters down in my planner as well. Just like with your writing schedule, these should be appointments and something that you schedule into your life. Remember that while this is more technical, its still part of the writing job.
2. The Close-In Edit: When the entire first draft is complete, you go back through and, beginning with word one to the end, you revise and edit the entire manuscript on your computer. This is the “close-in edit,” and becomes your second draft: the second time you write your book.
3. Hand Edit: Print a hard copy of the second draft of your entire manuscript. Beginning with word one to the end, you hand-edit the hard copy, scrawling notes and profanities to yourself all the way through the margins. Then, using your hand-edit notes as a reference, you go back into your computer file and revise the manuscript as needed. This is the “distance edit,” and becomes your third draft: the third time you’ve written your book. Yes, it’s a lot of pages to print but it’s much easier to edit by hand.
4. The Oral Edit: Finally, you print a new hard copy and read your entire manuscript aloud. Read it to the walls, to your spouse, to the patrons at Starbucks, to your dog, to the bowl of soggy Cocoa Puffs left over from breakfast. Doesn’t matter who’s in the room, only that you can hear yourself reading it. Start with word one and don’t stop until you read the last word. Yes, it may take you several days, but that’s alright. Keep reading every word out loud until you’re done.
As you read, note any places where the phrasing causes you to stumble, the wording feels confusing or out of place, or your mind seems to wander from the text in front of you. Those places need to be cut or rewritten, so as you’re reading aloud, pause to make notes as to what to do to improve them. When you’re done, incorporate your notes into the computer file of your manuscript. You’ve now finished the “oral edit”—and written your book four times.
At this point, you will be extremely sick of your book, but finished.
Yes, this is a tedious, tiring process. But it works. If you write your book four times, chances are very good that when you’re done it will be a finely-crafted work of art … or at least undoubtedly something much better than when you started.