Tag Archives: copywriting

The 7 (Agonizing) Stages of Self-Editing Your Fiction

A look at common struggles a writer encounters while perfecting their masterpiece. Or trying to, at least.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a how-to. This blog cannot be responsible for work that gets lost in editing oblivion. For a how-to, run a Google search. Or join a writer’s forum. I like this one.

Stage 1: The Post-Drafting High

You’ve just finished your piece. The characters are realistic and complex. The descriptions are captivating. The twist at the end: no one will see it coming. NO ONE. Congratulations! Good job, you. This is what you live for. Now, go out and get a beer. Hell, get two! Dance. Make some questionable life choices.

Enjoy it now, young grasshopper.

Stage 2: The Pre-Edit Low (aka. What the Hell Have I Done?)

So, you’re ready to work. You’ve recovered from that hang-over and you’ve corrected all those questionable life choices, though there may still be some photo evidence on Instagram. Go check.

In any case, the document’s open, your title page looks spectacular, and you’ve spent the last hour and a half deleting extraneous tabs and trailing paragraphs.

Now: let’s do a quick read-through. Let’s look out for continuity errors, major plots holes, and breaks in character building. Maybe you should consider reworking that second paragraph. And the next chapter. And the whole middle part. Hell, this looks worse than you remember, doesn’t it? Who wrote this? Clearly, you didn’t. Your IQ is higher than a chimp’s, yet it seems like the chimp could poop out a better manuscript while sleep deprived, post-spicy burrito.

What have you done? All that planning (or lack thereof) has gotten you nothing. The voice is off, your main character is annoying, and that plot twist? Predictable.

Well, fine. I guess you’re rewriting the whole damn thing.

Stage 3: The Rewrite

After recovering from the emotional damage of discovering the story you’ve been working on for the past millennium is terrible, it’s time to do a rewrite. This can consist of just specific parts of your manuscript or the entire thing, but it largely consists of crying, outbursts to family and friends, and reconsidering your choice to become a writer (whose idea was that?).

But hey, maybe this isn’t so bad. You could take that stock character and give them an epic side story. And that twist? Tweak it a bit, and BAM! One hundred times more unpredictable than before. This is actually kind of fun. This is the reason you became a writer in the first place: to WRITE! But don’t get too ecstatic. Most of the good stuff comes from editing after all, remember? That’s why you’re here.

Stage 4: The Break.

You’ve worked hard, right? Why not take a break? Go for a run. Go read a newspaper. Go clean out those drawers in your bedroom that have been overflowing since spring (read: since two springs ago).

But who am I kidding? You don’t wanna do any of that. You’d rather obsessively refresh your Facebook feed then binge-watch Game of Thrones on Netflix while drowning your sorrows into a litre of cookie dough ice cream and a bottle of coke.

Now, that’s a break. Am I right?

Stage 5: The Deadly Cycle of Procrastination

It’s been a couple days. Your Game of Thrones marathon quickly led to Catching Up with the Kardashians and then cat videos on YouTube. However, you’re experiencing a revival of determination. Or maybe it’s that gnawing feeling of idleness.

Either way, the line-by-line is next and that’s going to take the longest. But maybe you should do some laundry before you get started. And feed the cat. Oh, don’t forget to call Mom. She misses you. Your whole family misses you. How about a barbeque? The weather is warm and your social interaction has been subpar lately. Maybe an evening with a bottle of wine. That would be nice.

Do you see? It won’t end.

Seriously. Editing. Go.

Stage 6: The Copyedit

This is the most tedious part – however, also the quickest. This is the part where you drive yourself crazy about your grammar and cut down on the wordiness. No passive sentences, you say? And saidisms? You mean, you can’t use he articulated and I phonated? And heaven forbid you make up your own character or location names. Your word processing program is going to love pointing those out.

(Psst. Add them to your dictionary. Save yourself the agony.)

Stage 7: The Post-Edit High

You did it! You’ve survived your self-edit with your fingers intact and perhaps a shard of your sanity. Never fear though, what comes next is quite possibly the thing you’re looking forward to the most: MORE EDITING!

“What?” You ask. “I thought I was done.”

Well, think again. If you’ve got an editor or a trusted beta-reader, they’re going to have some useful thoughts. Besides, let’s be real, this is what you live for. There’s nothing that compares to a nice and polished manuscript that’s ready to take on the world. Well, maybe a published manuscript could compare, but you’re on your way there anyway!

Happy editing!

POST-SCRIPT: No chimps were hurt during this editing cycle. Or force-fed burritos.