Adding quality/value to writing

Half a dozen prolific writers of various genres recently had an interesting Teams conversation about edits and the editing process, and I was fortunate to be involved. We discussed what that process looked like in our worlds. Most in the group subscribed to a simple (but incorrectly-labelled) process:

  • write
  • self-edit
  • write
  • self-edit (continue ad nauseam until…)
  • send manuscript to editor
  • discuss/agree/make changes as appropriate
  • manuscript to the typesetter/formatting
  • publish

I confessed to the group that I am a serial editor (this isn’t much of a confession to anyone who knows me). I am never happy with my manuscript, no matter how many hands it has passed through. I can’t ever view my writing as ‘finished’. My take on it is my writing is so poor it can always be improved and, as a serial editor, I’m always looking to achieve that improvement, even if it’s just removing or adding a comma. Surprisingly, I was the only one who felt this overriding compulsion to the level of approaching a psychosis.

I said I felt the editing process wasn’t as linear as they made out (and this is probably because of the internal driver that keeps me in peak serial editor mode). I also felt that the editing process doesn’t begin when everyone else said it did. I tried to put together a timeline to show what I mean.

  • write
  • self-review
  • write
  • self-review (etc, until completion)
  • whole manuscript review, make corrections, updates, and rewrites
  • whole manuscript read aloud, make corrections, updates, and rewrites
  • manuscript to editor
  • discuss/agree/make changes as appropriate (or not make changes!)
  • whole manuscript review
  • send manuscript to Kindle
  • read, photograph Kindle pieces that need changing
  • self-edit and rewrite as required
  • manuscript to the typesetter/formatting
  • publish

For me, there are two take-aways here. The first is that although every step adds value, the two most fundamental steps are to send the manuscript to my Kindle, and then to conduct a full author self-edit/rewrite. I am not able to explain it fully, but reading my (draft) manuscript on the Kindle adds another dimension that reading a Word document doesn’t.

The second point is that I don’t consider anything to be an edit until I have sent the manuscript to my editor (edit point #1 in my world), and when I conduct the post-Kindle edit/rewrite (edit point #2). Everything before edit point #1 is no more than a self-review; they’re just tweaks on the page, and shouldn’t be seen as an edit.

Of course, other views are available on this, and I’ll continue to listen to writers who have those other views. Except, of course, I know I’m right on this and they probably aren’t.