Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Editing - and more editing

I’m about half way through revising and editing ‘Irish Inheritance’. Each chapter is taking me about 8 or 9 hours to get through – almost as long as writing the chapter in the first place! With 27 chapters (averaging about 3,500 words each), that’s a lot of hours!

I tend to do some basic editing as I write the first draft, but once the whole story is written, here’s my usual process with each chapter:

1. Read through the chapter, and adjust the elements of the story where necessary – add, delete, amend etc, and check for repeated/unnecessary explanations, and also for continuity. This can also involve going back to earlier chapters to check, add, or delete there too, or making a note to remind myself for later chapters.

2. Go through again, and fine-tune words and phrasing. A thesaurus can come in useful here to find the exact word I want, instead of being content with a word or phrase that now seems inadequate. I also try to spot very basic errors my current chapter, I found I’d written ‘small pinpricks of excitement’ and thought, ‘Hmm, pinpricks ARE small’ so I deleted the unnecessary word.

3. Use the ‘find’ facility on Word to find and change the words I know I tend to overuse. Yes, we all have them! Only, really, just, then, so, maybe, look, ‘ly’words – my list seems to be getting longer, not shorter.

4. Put the chapter through Autocrit Wizard (yes, you knew I’d mention that again, didn’t you?) – and groan at the overused or repeated words and phrases I missed. This is probably the longest part of the whole process, as Autocrit highlights other errors, or least areas that can be improved. For example, in my latest chapter, the heroine nodded so much, it’s a wonder her head didn’t fall off. It can take me a long time to sort out the style problems and find some way to rephrase them.

5. Once I’ve been through all the different categories on Autocrit, I read the chapter out loud. This helps me to spot any typos, missed words or missed punctuation. It also tells me if the ‘flow’ of my writing sounds right, or if I need to adjust any phrasing, or use pronouns instead of names (and vice versa).

6. When I think the chapter is ‘perfect’ (ha!), I put it through Autocrit again, preen myself at losing the errors, and then cringe at the final ‘combination report’ which can still highlight the things I’ve missed! How did I miss the word ‘about’ three times in one paragraph?

7. Having done all this, I send the chapter to my two critique partners. And yes, they come up with queries and suggestions, so I open up the chapter again, and take their advice on board.

8. Once I’ve gone through this process with every chapter, I put them all together, and do a ‘Find’ on the whole document for those repeat words and phrases. Even though there may only be one in each chapter, a reader will notice if the same phrase keeps appearing chapter after chapter. I know this from my own reading.

9. I then read through the story backwards, page by page. This takes you away from the story line, and makes you concentrate on the words, sentences, paragraphs, and on any punctuation errors too.

10. Last but not least, I put the story away for about a week, do something else, and then come back to it, and read it through from start to finish. And yes, I can still find something I want to tweak!





  1. This is great how-to-list, Paula!

  2. Whew! I'm tired just reading this...editing really is a long process, but one that need to be done thoroughly. It sounds like you have your system down to make your books the best they can be!

  3. That is a very rigorous editing process! Impressive.

  4. Paula, I shared on FB, Google and tweeted. I think more people, especially those who don't have editors assigned should consider your process. Even with an editor, I'm going to give it a try when I finish my next book...if I live so long. *lol* Articles like this need to be shared.


  5. Thank you, all! It's a process I've developed over the course of my last 4 books (ever since I discovered Autocrit)

    Debra, it is a long process, and can be tedious at times, but the publishers I'm with only do 'light' editing, so I feel the responsibility is mine to submit the best ms. I can.

    Thanks, Ginger :-) It's certainly helped me to tighten up my writing!

  6. I LOVE learning how other people work! I also read the manuscript out loud during my revision process. I find it an invaluable step.

  7. I'm so impressed by this, Paul - I'm a bit slapdash compared to you! No wonder my editor has found so many repetitive words in my new novel that's going through edits just now. But she's a brilliant editor and great to work with.

  8. Alexa - I agree about reading the ms. out loud. It's amazing how things jump out at you (things you hadn't noticed when reading silently!)

  9. Rosemary - I learnt my lesson when my first novel (His Leading Lady) only received very scanty editing. After that, I decided to be much more careful with my editing!

  10. Great advice! I'm also going to look into Autocrit Wizard.

    I listen to my MS with'text to speech'. And you are so right--I put the MS away for a while and when I come back, I always find something. lol

    You had me laughing about the 'nodding of heads'. My characters have suffered from too much nodding and shaking of heads, too. lol

  11. I'm not on any commission with Autocrit Wizard, honest, Karen - but I do find it very useful.
    Glad it's not just me with the nodding heads!
    When one of my books is published, I hardly dare to read it, because I know I will find something I've missed or want to change!