I made this video back in 2020 after having several people mention that when it came to editing they felt overwhelmed. Most pointed out that they had know idea where to start.
I thought that by putting my tips into a video format, that it would make it easier for people. I wanted to keep it short, and to the point. I’m someone who enjoys this process, but after years of tutoring and editing for others I’ve learned how quickly a person can stress themselves out. A lot of them will say things like, “I just wanted to write a story! Why do I have to do more work?”
I get it. I do. You feel like you’ve finally completed something and then BAM, you get hit with this realization that there’s a lot more work to do. It’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to be a little stressed out by that, especially if this is your first time completing a book.
I hope that this video will be helpful to those who get overwhelmed by this process. I spend a lot of time editing myself, and something that I have learned…and this is probably one of the most important tips, is that it is important to take breaks. Step away for an hour, go for a walk, call your folks, play a game…whatever it is, take a few moments to allow yourself to unwind. Your thoughts will flow better, and you’ll be able to edit more effectively while you’re in a good headspace.
March is here! Aside from the first day of the month being very chilly, I thought today was lovely. I spent the morning in one of my favourite places in the world (among books, would you believe that?) and then snuggled up at home with my blankets and fangirled over Dick Grayson for an hour before reading. Dinner was also great. It’s been a great day.
I’ve been doing a lot of editing. So much in fact, that when I’m away from my manuscript I’m continuously reviewing scenes in my head. It’s been fun. I have a much shorter deadline this time around, so I’ve been trying to manage my time effectively.
It’s can be challenging trying to balance everything but each time my schedule changes and becomes busier, I try to keep track of each thing I’d like to accomplish. Depending on how busy I get, this can be a daily or weekly task. I find that allowing myself to be flexible, helps me not to stress out about things. If I’m ahead of schedule with one thing, then I have the time to spontaneously go off and do something for a few hours.
I believe that a part of self-care is taking the time to do the little things you enjoy. For me that could be reading a book or watching a show. Sometimes it’s doing several very small things like putting on my favourite perfume or listening to a great playlist while I get ready in the morning. Whatever it is, it allows me to take some time to rest.
I highly recommend implementing breaks in your schedule, as if you were at say an 8 hour job. I’m not saying to write for 8 hours straight or anything but give yourself a deadline and allow yourself to step away from your manuscript for fifteen minutes. It can really help to come back to a scene with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s a lot more effective than staring at your manuscript all day stressing out of a single line of text. Step back. Breath. Try again.
Over the years I’ve picked up different tips and tricks to help make drafting my novels a bit easier. When I first started writing novels, I would draw out what my character’s looked like, along with say their bedrooms or parts of their house but for some reason I stopped as I got older. Personally, I think it was because of how much time I had. As a thirteen-year-old I had more time to work on my stories and was completing a novel every one to three months…which I’m still astonished by because it took me seven years to complete my last one. Can you imagine doing NANOWRIMO every month?
Having a visual was fantastic. I of course still draw all my character’s, but I stopped drawing where they lived which at first, I didn’t think was such a huge deal but now I’m realizing not having those visuals can become extremely frustrating. Sometimes while drafting you might forget the colour of a particular character’s bedroom, and perhaps this colour is significant throughout the story. Let’s imagine that this bedroom will ultimately become this character’s tomb, so recalling the colour, the smells and the overall atmosphere of the room should be brought up multiple times throughout the text. If you however have no clear idea of that or even say you step away from writing for a week and jump back into the story, you might miss something. Like I mentioned earlier, you could forget that this character’s bedroom has an apricot colour and that it smells of a certain perfume, let’s say a deep floral. A few chapter’s later, if you aren’t careful this entire image could change. It’s as bad as when you’re watching a movie and the main character is dragging their right leg because they’re injured but then in the following scene they’re hobbling along with their left. Being consistent with these types of details is equally as important as remembering the colour and texture of your main character’s hair.
Something that I decided to do was do description exercises, where I would write up what each character’s home looked like, taking the time to describe the individual rooms and overall property. Not just the important ones, but all of them, as if I were taking a tour. I found that in doing this I was less likely to forget the characteristics of a room. Instead it allowed me to give stronger descriptions later on. Personally, I wish I had been doing this all along.
Another thing that I tried was creating my character’s homes on The Sims, which again works well but only if you can constantly go back to look at it. It did however help me realize some issues with how I chose to layout certain houses. For example, the top floor having what seemed like an endless number of bedrooms and the main not having enough space to compensate that. Little peculiarities like that. If you have access to the game (or something similar) I would recommend it, as you get a great visual. This may not help with everything, but it can definitely be a good starting point. You might want to build your character’s world within the game before trying to describe it.
One other thing that I want to recommend, since we’re on the topic of descriptions is to include character’s when doing these types of exercises. This is to avoid using the same words over and over to talk about a character’s hair. Let’s pretend they have thick curls. Are you going to say “Philip ran a hand through his thick curls” every time you want to reference his hair? Are the curls tidy or messy? What colour do they have? Does the colour change depending on the lighting? Something else that’s important to a character is how they choose to dress themselves. Does this character take great pride in how they look, or could they care less? This is not to say that you spend pages upon pages telling us about what Nadya wore to school that morning, but you should have some idea of how your character likes to dress and if the clothing is significant to a scene keep track of it. It’s important that Cinderella is wearing glass slippers, is it not? Dorothy’s she’s are also significant to her story. We aren’t to forget that these shoes have magical properties!
Perhaps you want to assign your character a particular style? This is something I did as a kid, especially when my younger sister was playing games like Style Savvy. It was incredibly helpful. I had some character’s who preferred to dress in comfortable layers and others that preferred goth and alternative fashions. It may not seem as significant as a character’s overall voice and personality, but what they wear can help contribute to that. Do we not cultivate clothing to add to our collection (well, some of us do) or decorate our personal spaces with things that reflect who we are?
I personally wouldn’t have soccer trophies in my bedroom if I didn’t play soccer growing up.
Something that you could do as a warm-up is to describe a room in your house (even a desk if you wanted to try something small scale). For instance, by mentioning the soccer trophies in my room, the reader might then infer that I have an interest in sports. If I add that the trophies are dusty, that would indicate that I haven’t played sports in some time or that I don’t take pride in it. If I go on to add that the trophies were all participation trophies that would give off another hint about what type of person I am.
By doing these exercises with your own characters and settings you’ll have an easier time catching inconsistencies down the line (or avoid them altogether).
I often call myself an “over-editor” but I’ve started to wonder if over-editing is actually a thing. Way back I posted a video on my editing process. I broke it down into its simplest form because I know some folks would rather get a quick run down versus spend 40 minutes watching a video when they could be working on their manuscript. Still, that video which I believe is around 4 minutes doesn’t accurately show how much time I actually spend editing.
For me editing also takes part in the planning stages of the novel. At this point you’re researching and deciding what to include in your book. That to me is the same as when you decide to cut chapters or make word substitutions later on when your manuscript is complete.
Then there’s the “okay I’m finished writing” editing…which is reading through your first draft. I do three rounds of this edit. Sometimes more. I want to make sure I didn’t miss any “stupid errors” as I call them, which is basically spelling, grammar or major plot holes. These tend to be the mistakes I made while staying up till 3 am to write after working all day.
This editing also familiarizes me with the text because I am forced to read it over multiple times. I also try to take notes while editing, however I make more notes while working with another editor or a beta-reader. Notes from other peoples feedback is extremely beneficial and I tend to keep it to enhance not only my current work in progress, but all my future projects as well. It can be difficult to realize what areas you need to work on and to top it off you also learn where your strengths are!
But is over-editing a thing? After writing and revising this manuscript as many times as I have…personally I’ve lost count. I’d say to keep things simple I’ve gone over it about 8 times in total. 3 times on my own with the initial first draft. This being the 3rd now while editing with my editor…which makes 6 and within those 3 I read over it on my 3rd edit two extra times before sending it back to my editor yesterday. So yes. 8. Math.
I suppose over-editing could be a thing but to me I’m only doing what I feel is necessary. If it feels like something is off or needs to be corrected, I find a solution for it (or in some cases scrap it and start fresh). To me that is all apart of the editing process…I think however there are probably more efficient ways of editing ones book but each of us are different and will benefit from different forms of editing. I know some folks who don’t edit their own work at all. I simply prefer to edit mine before giving it to someone else to read because I want it to feel “reader friendly”/”ready.”
As a reader I absolutely hate being thrown off by a random spelling error in a book. This has happened more than I’d like to admit. It’s like having someone pinch you while you’re in the middle of a good dream! Little things like that get to me. It doesn’t make me stop reading, but it can pull me from the experience temporarily if I have to go back and reread the same sentence to figure out what’s going on simply because a single word was spelled incorrectly.
I’ve seen this in a lot of traditionally published books I’ve read lately…more so in comics. For me with the comics it is more frustrating simply because it literally lists every person who edited the book, and I’m like “there were 5 spelling mistakes.” One I can forgive but 5? And by a larger company…yikes. Especially since those books are expensive! I love them…and they’ve brought me so much joy over the years but I can’t get over how the last 3 books I’ve purchased from them have had around 3 to 5 spelling errors each. Which then while I’m editing (which I’m almost always editing…unless I’m writing) makes me extremely paranoid about spelling errors in my own manuscript.
So…maybe to answer my own question: There’s editing, not editing at all and editing for hours on end because you’ve suffered from editorial errors as a reader and don’t want to do that to anyone else.
Honestly if I find spelling mistakes in my manuscript I get a little cranky. I’d say I’m fairly calm when it comes to my projects but if I accidentally spell “peach” as “peech” I’m not very peachy.
Anyway, if you’re doing NANOWRIMO this year, how is it going?
I’ve been attempting to edit for at least an hour every day. It isn’t always possible but I do believe that trying to create a habit is a good start for now. I used to write almost every day…not because I was forcing myself to but more so because I had a lot more time. Taking the time to edit properly means that I have more time to write later on. It motivates me…and encourages me.
Plus the chapter I just went over was hilarious. Sometimes I forget I write things like that. I should do that more often. I couldn’t stop laughing!
I feel like I made a lot of progress during my last few edits. Today’s goal is to actually go back to my earlier chapters and edit some dialogue. I have a habit of using certain things when my character’s speak but at times I do too much of it in one scene as my editor pointed out. So to make her job easier when she goes back to look through the dialogue, I’m going t try and eliminate some of this where I can. I want to leave a reasonable amount in there, mainly because it is something that I feel works well…but I definitely see her point. When something like that is used too often it ends up losing its effect.
Something that I’ve learned throughout this editing process, is to write down crutch words or words you tend to overuse in your manuscript, along with things that you to a lot stylistically. This will help you when you write future works, as well as while editing your current WIP.
I’ve found that since I’ve started keeping track of these things I have been more aware of them in my newer projects. Being conscious of it gives me an opportunity to make my writing stronger in the first draft, which is ideal because it means that I won’t have as much to correct later on when I edit!
Lately I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading, while I go through my edits. Since it was such a nice day, I decided to read outside but unfortunately the bugs came out. Luckily I finished my book, but I was planning on reading another afterwards.
I also took a peak at our neighbours the robins, and it looks like the two egg are doing well. I’ve seen birds coming over to the nest, but I wasn’t sure if the eggs would survive that rainstorm after we had to relocate them. We felt really bad moving the nest…but it was behind our dryer, and if we hadn’t noticed the dryer not working properly, we may have ended up with a fire. Don’t worry, I didn’t touch the eggs or nest while checking on them. I used to stool and looked at them from a distance. They’re such a pretty shade of blue.
One of my main character’s loves robin’s egg blue. It’s her favourite colour. I often draw her wearing clothes in that colour as well. It suits her.
Now that I’ve finished reading my book, I think I’ll try and do some editing. I’ve been keeping track of my progress with a notebook that I got from Indigo. I featured it in my new video that goes over my editing process.
Honestly, I did consider reopening my editing services, but I got so swamped with editing my own work, voice over and play stuff that I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on it. Plus I’m doing a little book launch prep and research right now.
I miss being around other people who like books…it was fun to talk about what we were currently reading, and to recommend series to each other. Thankfully during quarantine I’ve discovered the BookTube and Bookstagram communities! I’ve followed some Bookstagramer’s for a long time, but I didn’t realize BookTube was a thing. WriteTube…or AuthorTube (I’m not sure what that’s called) I’ve known about for years, but not BookTube. It’s such a nice calming community…with the occasional rant. I love the book hauls. They’re so fun to watch! It’s nice seeing people get excited about books as much as I do!
Here is my new video on How I Edit my Manuscripts! I made it because a lot of people have been asking around the writing community, and I couldn’t fit all of this information into a Tweet. Instead I put it into a short little video! Hope you like it, and find it helpful!