Editing Secrets for Non-Editors

Editing Secrets for Non-EditorsIn a perfect world, editing and writing would go hand-in-hand. But, the world is not perfect, and while some are strong writers, they abhor editing. Don’t worry, I understand. Editing is a pain. It means rehashing words that you have already written, and looking at passages that you wrote and wondering what you were thinking.

It’s a long process that can take multiple passes before even being ready to be passed off to an editor, whether professional or not.

But there are some tricks that you, as a writer, can use to clean up your first draft, making it easier for both yourself and someone else to go through. Wondering what they may be? Follow along below.

Make a number rule. What is a number rule? It’s when you decide which numbers you will spell out, and which you will write as numbers. For example, 1-10 then eleven and up. Or, 1-99 and one hundred and up. Be consistent about your choices and remember to make exceptions such as for years (1977).

Pick a side in the Oxford comma debate. To use them or not to use them, that is the question. Pick whichever you prefer and stick with it.

Watch your spellings. Are you using American, Canadian, or UK English? It’s the hardest for Canadians, since we use a mixture of the other two, and deem variations to be acceptable.

Make notes. If you mention that someone in chapter two has red hair, they better still have red hair (or a backstory) later in the story. Is someone tall, or short, or do they have traits worth mentioning? Keep notes so that your characters and settings make sense throughout.

Research. If you are introducing, for example, an android, into your story, you better make sure that you actually know what that is. Or, if your saying that someone rode a horse from one place to another in so many days, make sure the timeline makes sense. It doesn’t take much to Google a question or two.

Names. If you’re making up names as you go, keep a list of them and their spellings. For example, if you’re naming someone Bartram VanHoutenstein of the Agarentia Valley, are you going to remember exactly how to spell it every time? Or who his brothers or sisters or children are? Maybe not. Make a note of capitalization as well.

Edit like it’s a puzzle. It’s hard to sit down and edit a whole story at once, so break it up into pieces, but don’t forget to keep in mind that you are also editing the story as a whole. You should never edit a chapter at a time and then assume that you are done. Each piece fits into a bigger puzzle.

The above tips are used by professional editors, but combine tricks from both copyediting and fiction editing. What type of editor you choose will affect the type of input you receive at the end, but if you do your best to hand off a clear, clean, and learned manuscript, your editor can focus more on the strengths and weaknesses of your content as a whole instead of becoming distracted by small typos and errors.

Do you use any of these tips? What others would you add?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

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8 thoughts on “Editing Secrets for Non-Editors

  1. I definitely do as much research as possible before I get into writing, and I do more as needed while writing the story (I did research into Chinese names for one character in a novelette I just finished editing just because I wanted to know what sort of name I was giving her). If you ask me, research is one of the most important parts of a story, which is why it often comes first.

  2. Don’t go too hard all at once. It’s easy to burn yourself out on it, pushing until your eyes burn and the words no longer make sense. The mindset of “I have to edit this chapter by bedtime” frequently leaves you too blind to actually see the problems.

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