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.

2 thoughts on “Adding quality/value to writing”

  1. Hmm. Are you right? You are for you. Different methods work for different people. Our brains all function in different ways. There are authors I know who write the entire book making only minimal obvious edits as they go, and don’t start ‘the edit’ until it’s complete. I couldn’t do that, and I suppose I fall somewhere between you and them – but that’s an enormous space providing room for many options on how to attack editing. I agree that whatever you end up with will never be good enough for you, the author, but if I worked your way, I’d never finish a book. I’d be bored with it before I got half way. Self-doubt would creep in. I would question whether there was even a story to be told.
    For me, once the MS is complete, I probably read it two or three times in full (with more editing) before it goes to the editors. By that time, I wouldn’t care if I never read it again. Whether that was a comma or a semi-colon, or if the character really would do that. I’m often surprised when I do go back to a previous book by what’s happening. There can be entire sections which I’d forgotten about, which I could have quoted word for word during that final process. Horses for courses, I reckon.

    1. You are right, of course. I’ve only just realised that so much of my approach depends on my frame of mind/my mental place, and how in-tune I am with what I’m working on. I’m not as fixed as I thought I was, as recently discovered on the current WIP

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