Monday 13 May 2024

Knowing How To Approach Editing - The After Process


As someone who has edited a number of books, and has worked with a handful of editors, I thought that I would talk to day about how to approach editing. Of course this will all depend on your editor, their style of doing things, and you as a writer, but there are some common themes when it comes to editing that translate from editor to editor.

Personally I've worked with both editors who go through the manuscript with me, leave comments, and then I make changes along with them so that we're both sure that I'm on the right path. I've also worked with editors who give edit letters, some for the whole document at once, others, like my current editor Robert, one every quarter, and I've known of editors who do it for every act of the novel. All of these ways of doing things are valid and it's just about finding that fit, that editor, and that style that work for your own process.

I prefer the edit letters and then getting to go through the document at my own pace and work out what needs to be changed and moved around and what can be tweaked in place. I've worked with editors who do it all chapter by chapter, and I found that a lot more stressful and a lot harder to see the whole book as a whole. Of course the former means there are many read throughs to make sure I catch everything before it moves onto the line editor, and the latter means a lot of rewrites through the editing process and it all takes a lot longer to get through. Both work, and both are a great way to do things, it just comes down to personal preference.

So how do you work out which way works for you? How do you know which one is going to help you best craft the book into shape? And how do you then know how to approach rewrites and editing once you've landed on a style that works for you? Glad to asked because I'm gonna give you some of my tips on doing all of that and more.


I started off with an editor who would do corrections as she went, and I would follow along and make my tweaks here and there. It worked for me, at the time, and it wasn't until later on that I started to realise that the whole part of that process meant that by the time the book had gone to line edits, I was burned out on the story. That's one of the reasons I was happy to switch to a different editor and a different style of editing.

But you may not know that, and it might take you a while to get to a point where you do know how you work. While I've always been lucky with editors, finding people who meet my needs and also work well with me and my stories, I know that for a lot of writers, indie I mean because trad generally don't get an option in which editor they work with, it's not a case of one editor/editing team and done. Some will change from book to book, others will be with one editor for one genre and another for a different genre, and that's valid.

So if you find yourself moving through the process and realising that the way your current editor does things doesn't work for you, then it's perfectly fine for you to have a discussion, see about whether there can be any changes made to the situation, or if you need to amicably part ways and find another editor.

A lot of the time when you're first looking for an editor, you don't really know how they personally work. You might be able to approach clients they've had, and talk it through with them. Or you might be able to ask for a sample edit. It's literally as the name implies, a chance to have a look at how they make their comments - either as comments on the document or in edit letters etc - and how they work their way through the document.

There is usually no cost for this, and no obligation to book with them should you find that your style and theirs just doesn't match. It's okay to get sample edits and see which one might be the better fit for you. These are industry standard things, most editors will offer some kind of sample, and it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to go further along with it.

If you know ahead of time how you personally work, like you're looking for a new editor having going through the process before, then this makes things easier because you're able to basically upfront ask how they form their edits. But if you don't, then sample edits can be a big help.

I don't want to imply that every book you write will need extensive rewrites, but I will just say that the majority of them will need a lot of work done. It's up to you to define how much a lot of work is. I've never written a book, and it be perfect. I don't think anyone ever has. There's the want to believe that because this book is your baby, that there are no flaws, but the point of the professional edit is that you can't see those flaws.

Right now, I'm in the middle of edits and rewrites for a book coming out later this year. I went into extensive revisions and while I like to think the story was as solid as it could be going into edits, there were, there always are, things that I'd not caught. The point is that you are too close to the story to pick up on those little bits. Like one thing my dev editor dinged me on was a turn of phrase I've used a little too much.

But approaching rewrites and edits is a very personal thing, it's about how you work as a writer. I usually tackle the first round of edits on a two chapters as a time basis. I have my edit letter up on one side of the screen and my document on the other, and I spend as long as I need to getting those chapters to where they need to be, and then I move onto the next two.

After I've done a full edit pass, I will then go through and reread five chapters at a time. That way I know that anything I might have missed on that first pass will be caught, and when that's done? I do it again. Just to be doubly sure. Now that might not work for you, but I always found that tackling it in small bites made things a whole lot easier for me.

You gotta do what works for you, and that's valid.

So yeah, editing is a beast and it goes from finding someone who works for you, and then tackling the rewrites as well. It's a long drawn out process and it's something that I always find draining, but when you do find an editor who is good with your personal style, they are gold dust and you should hang onto them for as long as you can.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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