5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing — Morgan S Hazelwood

Once upon a time, back in August of 2014, I’d finished writing my novel. It was done! All I had left was editing and then I could start querying! I started researching the query letter (the Query Shark rocks!) when I was away from my manuscript and couldn’t edit. I figured the hard part was done, all I had left was to polish it up.


Here I am, 2 years later, with 2 revisions and 4 new drafts under my belt. In that time, I’ve learned so much. What I revise now, I never could have done when I started.

My writing?

Well, that’s about the same. Luckily, as writers, we don’t have to stop with the first draft.

5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing

The 3 main types of editing:

When you first start to edit your novel, if you’re like me, you’re trying to make it legible and entertaining. Looking for all your typos and bad commas. That’s not a bad place to start, but that’s not all there is to know about editing.

  • Type 1: Developmental editing –

    • Your world and characters need depth. They need to be more than just stereotypes or 2-dimensional characters.
  • Type 2: Structural editing –

    • How do the plot and action flow?
    • If there are chapters where nothing happens, do you need them?
    • Does everything in the story make sense and follow what’s happened before?
    • Are there hints so even the unexpected makes sense–in retrospect?
  • Type 3: Line edits –

    • The editing most people think of.
      • Misspellings, commas, and awkward phrasing.
      • Places where you tell, instead of show.
      • All the little rules you can learn and checklists.

You Can Ignore Edits

Just because you’ve got 1 million comments on your manuscript doesn’t mean you have to make 1 million changes.

  • Reasons I Ignore An Edit:

    1. It’s dialogue and that’s how my character speaks
    2. For stylistic reasons
    3. Because the editor doesn’t know [X], which explains why [Y] needs to be in there
    4. ONE critique partner/beta reader got confused, but everyone else seems to grok* it perfectly fine

Waiting Before You Edit Helps

  • If you’re like me, you:

    • read this advice 100 times
    • wrote your rough draft
    • edited less than 2 weeks after you finished

However, I’m older and wiser than I was when I finished my first shiny ugly draft. Now I know I can indeed edit immediately… line edits. I can make my story clearer and fix all the spelling errors and half the comma errors and get confused on the semi-colon vs em dash errors…

You know what I can’t do? Revise.

It took 4 rounds of edits, in which only 2 actually contained revisions (type 1 and 2 edits), for me to actually get my novel in decent shape. The flow is better, the last couple of chapters had to be rewritten–again.

Editing Techniques to Try

I learned I can do copy edits and flow best on paper. Other edits, I can be at the computer. The hard part? I can’t edit without either my stack of paper or at a computer. I could write on my phone, riding shotgun. I can’t even have music when I’m editing, because I’m too distractable. But everyone is different.

You’re Never Truly Done**

*Grok means to understand on a visceral level. (From Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land)
**You just reach a point where you deem it: Good Enough!

NOTE: You know what’s ironic? When you mis-schedule a draft post for Wednesday instead of Thursday, so your readers see the draft before you’ve finished editing it…while writing a post on editing. Luckily, those of you who saw this early liked it. Hopefully, you’ll like it better in all it’s planned glory!

via 5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing — Morgan S Hazelwood


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