I’m super excited that my amazing critique partner and sweet friend, Abi, is here to talk about editing! Abi and I have worked together on various projects over the past year and a half, and I can definitely say that she’s one of the most amazing editors I’ve ever worked with. And today, she’s sharing some tips from her personal experience being both an author and an editor, and how to keep those elements separated. Enjoy!
I am a freelance editor and a novelist. Being able to keep those roles separate is really not as hard as you might think. It all comes down to silencing my inner editor–something every writer has to learn how to do.
There are times to write and there are times to edit. It’s really as simple as that. Only do one at a time.
When I’m editing a novel for someone, I’m reading slowly, questioning everything, and searching every word for something off. I want to do that only when I’m editing.
When I’m reading a book, I try to avoid doing that. But if something stands out to me as awkward, my brain immediately jumps to what sort of suggestion I would leave the author. That’s not a bad thing, but try not to pull yourself out of the book. Reading an engrossing book is excellent practice for silencing your inner editor so that you can still enjoy the story.
When I’m drafting a novel, I also want to silence my inner editor as much as possible so that I can focus on writing. Editing comes later. But at the same time I want to write a solid draft.
I attain the balance by:
Keeping in mind my bad habits and avoiding them where I can. For example, passive voice is an issue of mine, and POV can be as well. If I can make those decent from the start, it will save me editing.
NOT being lazy about writing. Like I just said, just because you’re drafting doesn’t mean you have to forget how to write. Spelling and punctuation should all fill their proper roles still. Save yourself work where you can.
NOT rereading what I’ve written. This can be really hard for me. Rereading the last few sentences of what you wrote to pick it back up again is one thing. But do not reread entire paragraphs or pages! It will switch your brain from writing mode to editing mode.
Changing very little as I write. This goes back to not rereading. Sometimes you don’t even have to reread to know that you’ve written words that need help. Now is not the time to change them! Once you’ve put the period on the sentence or ended a paragraph, consider it sealed until the editing process.
Thinking about what to write next. I sometimes spend a long time thinking about how best to word a single sentence or piece of dialogue. Not every time, but it doesn’t hurt to spend a few moments being purposeful.
Rethinking the direction. Sometimes, more than just an individual sentence, I have to consider what the story lacks as a whole. Figuring out where a chapter is going can save you a lot of pointless words and thus make editing easier.
Leaving myself notes when I know I’ve made a consistency error. This is a huge one! If you know you’ve written something that doesn’t line up with something previously, or you need to fact check, leave yourself a note! Your editor self will want to know that. Sometimes I leave myself a note in all caps in the middle of a sentence and sometimes it’s more subtle and I use the comment feature on whatever program I’m writing in.
Those are just examples of some of the things I do while writing. They may not all fit your writing style and I’m sure there’s more you can add. But silencing your inner editor just enough is a huge part of writing an effective draft.
All those fears and concerns that are tied up in the words of your book? Set them aside while writing and focus on each word.
Once every word is written, give yourself a small breather. Then come back with fresh eyes and read it as an editor, looking for things that need to change.
Even though I am an editor for other people, editing for myself will always be different. For others, I only have to find a problem and give a solution. For me, I have to do that and fix the problem myself. That’s the scary part, because until that book is published it’s just a bunch of words that can easily be changed for better or for worse.
It’s a big responsibility! But don’t let your fears strangle your confidence or your progress. The biggest thing you can do is not edit alone. Because the words are yours, there are some things you will never see. As long as you know that, get some trusted friends to help you out. You still have to make the changes, but they can help you know how and what to change. They’ll also share the good things of your story and remind you why you began in the first place.
Once you feel your story is there, hire an editor to get that professional finish.
Keeping the roles of writing and editing distinct will help make the time you spend with your words more effective. Don’t lose your passion for the story just because the middle gets messy! You will see that book on a bookshelf.
Are you currently in the writing or editing stage? How do you silence your inner editor?