Problem-Solving Blocks in Editing

smokeoctI don’t tend to have many problems drafting a novel. I have enough ideas, can think through various options for characters to choose, and can form an outline and plot enough to write 80,ooo words of fiction.

Editing, however, is another beast entirely.

Finding What Works

Most advice for editing is much like that of writing: some writers do it this way, other writer’s do it another… you need to find what works for you. Similarly, the editing style often depends upon your drafting style.

For a writer who outlines, checks their plan every scene and revises yesterday’s words before beginning the next scene, that large-scale edit to fix plot-holes will be very different from the discovery writer who introduced 8 new characters not in their original idea and wrote 3 possible endings.

My Writing Style

Although it does evolve, my general writing style is that of a fairly well-planned world, a brief outline to check I have enough plots/sub-plots, and then short sprints to get words down; exploring my characters as I go. I have learned that I need some kind of word-count goal to write a coherent story, and that switching between different projects works as long as they are not too similar.

Currently, I’ve editing a completed novel, writing a short story, and writing the ‘world’ of a new story. Not in “write a full draft” mode, I therefore only have a goal of “write every day” for now.

Yet, editing is a struggle; both in finding a place to start and in gaining that sense of momentum. In a short story, I’ve rarely gone off track from my original outline to that extent. In a novel, even my most well-planned stories require a fairy large edit for content.

Trusting the Process

Sometimes, practise really does make improvement. I’ve printed out manuscripts, used track changes, re-started with the previous draft as a “new outline” and this time, I’m focusing on labelling what is already there; creating a new ‘outline’ stating what is actually present in the book.

Time will tell how useful this process becomes.

How do you approach editing?

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