The Edit

Sean O'Mordha   February 4, 2020   No Comments on The Edit

Writing a book involves a lot of work — a lot. Writing means starting with a vague idea and writing a synopsis to visualize what you want and where to go with the story. Next is making some kind of outline, a road map. That can be as detailed as you feel necessary. Now, it’s time to set the location and populate the story. That may sound easy. Not necessarily. Depending on what you create can affect the smooth flow imagined when the project started. Not only can characters warp the storyline, so can location. A change or thought can send you to research faster than a speeding bullet. Finally, a rough draft is done. Now, to make it a readable novel.

Author Ellie Jones said,

“Good novels aren’t written, they are rewritten.”

It makes no difference if this is your first attempt at writing a novel or one-hundredth. Once drafted, it is get down and dirty time. That can be drudgery or a fun, rewarding experience. Personally, I enjoy editing. It’s like an artist. Once the pencil outline is done, it’s time to color between the lines.

There are some good eFiles discussing the editing process, such as:

Ellie Jones’ “How to edit a book – 20 ways to polish that manuscript.”

New York Times best-selling author, Wendy Mass who penned a help for NaNoWriMo


We each have an individual approach incorporating much of what they propose. I like to do some groundwork before starting by splitting each chapter into scenes. Simply put, a scene is “a unit of action or a segment of a story.” Think of it as the final outline.

Whenever the action changes, the scene changes. Discussion in the living room – scene 1. A character moves into the kitchen to speak on the phone – scene 2. Joins someone shooting baskets outside – scene 3. Or, three people talking in the living room – scene 1. One person leaves, the two remaining discuss something about the departed person – scene 2.

This chart tells me the chapter number, who is in it, the word count (important later) and a tentative title, and the scene with a brief description of main points.

I found this a real time-saver. The current story is complex, and this view allows me to change the order of events if necessary to smooth the flow and as a check that important points previously planned were met. It also shows where important information is located and if a chapter should be split.

From here, starts the more detailed edit, doing what is necessary to make it readable. This always includes running it through an online readability and grammar program. I would do this even if not dyslexic. A spell-check running while typing catches a lot those “fat-finger” errors. An online thesaurus and dictionary help find a more accurate word, and an online grammar check catches all those pesky commas I don’t care about while drafting. It also makes other suggestions, some of which are purely stupid (not to mention hilarious.)

All that accomplished, the story is ready to publish, right? Wrong. Second edit, I begin looking at all those important nit-picky things like Jones and Mass have posted. Now, all done? Not for this author. I will do a third edit, which is mostly a read-through for continuity. If everything looks okay and I haven’t come up with some changes, the manuscript is ready to format. If sending to an editor, that means putting the manuscript in the form they require — margins, typeface, spacing. If publishing yourself, meeting all those requirements.

What’s next? Start promoting sales and start work on the next story.

An observation: There appear to be people who go to the expense and have a page-turner printed to edit. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just expensive and time-consuming. I’ve used computers for writing since 1980. When the Internet opened to the public (August 6, 1991), I jumped aboard August 7th. A little cumbersome at the time, what amazing tools the computer and Internet have become. I can write, cut, paste, move, check for errors on the fly, and lookup information of every conceivable kind. If you are still writing with stone-age technology, give computers a whirl. If an old geezer like myself can do it, you young pups can do it better.

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