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Finished writing? How to start the editing process

Talk to ten published authors along with short story writers and poets, and you’re likely to find just as many different writing and editing processes. There is no right or wrong way to take your work from beginning to end, but if you have yet to find the perfect process for you, here are a few great places to start.


The story: A super short story you wrote pretty quickly

Go ahead and take another read through right away. Make notes of the things you like and the things you want to change in the margins or on another piece of paper. Now, start considering how you’d make those changes. For quick things, like tweaking a sentence here and there, you can work out those things now. But for more complex changes, you might want to let those ideas stew for a day or so before you tackle them.


The story: A long-ish story you’ve been working on for a few weeks

Hit save and close the word doc, babe—it’s time to celebrate! Let it sit for a few days, so you have fresh eyes when you look at it again. When you’re ready, read it through, no pen in hand, and when you get to the end, think about what you’ve written and ask yourself what works and what doesn’t. Use the next few days to hammer out a few changes. If you get stuck, find a writing buddy—a friend, a teacher, a fellow writer—and ask them to read it through. Once they’ve finished a first read, tell them what you think the sticky points are, ask for their suggestions and go from there.


The story: The novel-length beastie you’ve been working on for ages

It’s time to put this sucker in a trunk and forget about it for awhile. Since you’ve been working on it for so long, it’s going to be too difficult to go back and start editing right now, so take a breather—even try working on something new right now. When you feel like you’ve gotten enough space from your masterpiece, pull it back out and put on your reader glasses. Just read it through first and make note of little things and big things that don’t make sense or could be written better or explained more fully. Are there plot holes? A way to make your characters more realistic? Identify the places that could make your story really shine, and take time to address those. When you think it’s ready for another set of eyes, turn your tale over to a friend you can count on to give it a constructive critique. With their advice in hand, do another round of editing…and then give it to another read. Repeat the process until your story sings, sweetie.


What’s your editing process, babes? Share ‘em in the comments!

published January 15, 2014
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