What I Learned About Editing (This Time Around)

So I realized that I used to have that whole Monday-Friday post schedule thing going on, and it was nice and you always knew when I was going to post something and now you definitely don't.

I'm sorry. :( Hopefully once I go back to school at the end of August, I'll have more time to schedule things.

For now, you get intermittent posting! Whoooooo!

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my outburst this week about a certain eleven thousand words. I cut said eleven thousand words from a manuscript I previously didn't think I could cut much from.

I cut no scenes or chapters. I only cut words and phrases and occasionally sentences.

The only reason I was able to do this was because of the guidance I received before beginning the edit:

"Read every sentence carefully. If all or part of it isn't relevant to the story in some way, cut it. Have something significant every five lines. Have something quotable every five lines."

Now before I go off recommending this advice to everybody, I want you to know that NO ADVICE APPLIES TO EVERYONE. That's how writing rules get started. And WRITING HAS NO RULES. Okay? Okay.

Here's why I think this advice is good when you're able to take a critical eye to your own manuscript:

Read every sentence carefully. If all or part of it isn't relevant to the story in some way, cut it. Well. This should be obvious. If what you're writing isn't helping the story, why is it in there? This doesn't mean your writing needs to be sparse, but it also doesn't mean that you should pack everything you can in there under the excuse it's relevant to the story. This bit of advice is especially helpful for people like me, who tend to put extra words and details into a story when they really have no purpose, or won't be missed when they're gone.

That's the easiest way to figure out what you should keep and what you should cut, I think -- what will you miss when it's gone? What will leave a gap in the storytelling? What's an essential component?

Have something significant every five lines. This was what really helped me. This doesn't mean that you need to have some deep, theme-setting character thought every five lines of the story. That would be ridiculous. To me, this means you need something every five lines that makes people think or laugh or get teary eyed. Something to keep them reading. If you just have lines and lines of insignificance, people will get bored.

Have something quotable every five lines. This is similar but slightly different than the last one, if only for the reason that I think it might make more sense to different people. Have you gone to Goodreads and looked up quotes for a certain book? And sometimes there are just quotes upon quotes upon quotes? That's what your book should be like. Give your readers a feast.

I don't know if this will help anyone else, but it certainly helped me. I went from 95k to 84k in just a few days. (That wasn't so much the advice as it was the fact that I have Ludicrous Speed Editing.)

[Ludicrous Speed Editing isn't a real thing, btw.]

What about you? Have any good editing advice that slapped you upside the head?

16 comments:

  1. Great advice, Chessie! Great job on cutting your ms. It's funny - I have the opposite problem; I have to add, add, add to my manuscript. It's tough on the other end, too. I have to think a lot about "Will this new scene add anything to the already existing stuff? Is this me just adding for the sake of adding? Does this sound like my main character, or me?"

    Editing/revising is one of the hardest things I've ever done, via writing and I have such a love/hate with it. I hope that is how a lot of people feel, mostly lol bc I don't want to feel alone! :)

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    1. Thank you! And I have a feeling I'm going to know what you mean here soon -- some of my recent WiPs have threatened to fall short of the wordcounts I want. But yeah, adding more definitely sounds like a challenge.

      Editing is definitely tough! But whenever I get really frustrated with it, I sit back and remind myself that I actually finished a draft of the manuscript and managed to finish the story. >.<

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  2. Woot! A blog post from Chessie! Yaaaay~

    And also yay for edits! Haha, this reminded me of how I cut 10ish K from MM JUST by cutting down sentences or removing the wordiness. It scared me at first because I was all like: Did I accidentally cut out whole scenes or something?

    That's really good advice about 'having something quotable/significant every five lines.' I'll keep that in mind as I write PB (because I know from MM that wordiness/unnecessary writing is a huge problem for me).

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    1. :DDD

      It seems we are in the same boat, friend. I didn't realize how unnecessarily wordy I could get until I started cutting this stuff.

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  3. Wow, 11k just from words and phrases and sentences?! That is impressive.

    I love this advice! I tend to be a little wordy in my drafts, so I'll definitely remember this for when I'm editing :D

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    1. Thanks! I'm wordy, too, but it's like a sneaky kind of wordy where I don't know I'm doing it until someone kicks me and says, "You don't need this word!"

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  4. Wow, that's awesome! Thanks for the tips.

    For me, I tend to write pretty sparsely anyways, but I do tend to "condense" phrases. So something I say in 4 or 5 words, I'll change to say in 1 or 2, which also makes the writing tighter and better (obvi). I also ask myself if everything is moving the story forward (pretty much the same as making sure everything is relevant).

    And great job with the editing speed! That is something I def need to work on, lol.

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    1. No problem! Those are great tips. And between you and me, sometimes the editing speed kind of scares me -- I do it so fast I'm afraid I've completely screwed things up. XD

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  5. That's great writing advice! Thanks for it - I'm about to edit a bit, this will be very helpful. :)

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    1. No problem! And thanks for stopping by. ^_^

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  6. That is absolutely awesome advice, and the same way I was able to cut several thousand words from an old manuscript as well. I probably should have cut more >_>

    YAY EDITING. Which I need to get back to doing.

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    1. omg I wish I could cut more. ;_; If I could wring 4k more out of it, I'd be so happy. I don't think it's going to happen, unless I start cutting scenes.

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  7. Thanks Chessie! I just started editing. Great advice. Will keep it in mind. Now it is time for a beer. :)

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    1. No problem! Good luck with your editing, and thanks for stopping by! ^_^

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  8. Wow, that's awesome advice. I'm saving it!
    My writing advice? Ummm ... keep quick-to-prepare food handy. ^_^

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    1. Bahahaha, that is EXCELLENT advice. Food of any kind, really...

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