July 10, 2012

A Plethora of Edits

pinterest: the white sail's shaking
While I'm not officially participating in Katie's Actually Finishing Something July, the general idea for this month is to complete the preliminary edits for The White Sail's Shaking.  This means that over the past few days I have been wielding a red pen with reasonable vigor, slashing at the beginning of the first draft (beginnings are my bane), and it is currently in possession of half my mind. 

At least one Scribbles reader was interested in knowing how I go about all of this, and in the hopes that some of these points will benefit other writers, I thought I would go ahead and outline my process.  Of course every writer edits differently, and if there is one right way to do it, no one ever informed me; but this is a broad sketch of how I generally edit.

I like to start by making lists.  I have a little notebook in which I scrawl some of the finer parts of writing: marketing ideas, blog post ideas, research snippets, inspiring songs, and edits.  This is particularly helpful for a story like White Sail's, where I have so many edits to make that it becomes overwhelming; writing them down helps me stay organized and clear-sighted about what I'm doing.  So I make a list that looks like this:

Marta's Chapters
(with indented lines for each one of said chapters)

Atlantic Crossing

Edit Out Subplot

And so on, with boxes beside each so that when I finish I can check it off.  I'm pretty general here, since I know what I'm referring to and it helps keep matters in plain terms.  Too much detail makes me panic all over again.

After I make my list, I pull up the full Word document of my novel and take care of the major points that need to be taken out - for instance, that "edit out subplot" was a major point that took up two or three chapters, plus various references later on.  I left the later references because they are tied in with their surroundings, but I went ahead and stripped out the chapters singly devoted to the subplot.  This cuts down on some of the story's bulk, makes me feel productive, and saves the ink cartridge for the next part.

Because after I take care of those major issues, I print out my whole manuscript, punch holes, and put it in a binder.  This is the exhilarating part where I feel overjoyed with myself: I finished my novel!  It's gorgeous!  I love it!  I rule the world!  I indulge myself through this period, because frankly, it isn't going to last to the end of the editing process.

This is where I find a red pen (a good one is a must, especially when you know your story is going to need it), curl up in a comfy chair, and buckle down to the minutiae of editing.  I eliminate sentences, rewrite paragraphs, slash complete sections that have no bearing on the story.  Sometimes, however, I'm not sure if a section is important or not, so I put a question mark beside it and set it aside (figuratively) for me to address when I start putting the edits into the computer.  I'll also write notes to myself in the margins, for future consideration.  After this, I haul the notebook to the computer, open the document again, and start revising.  I don't necessarily follow what I wrote in the notebook, but often I do.

Now, a major part of editing White Sail's has been and is going to be adding sections that I skipped in the first draft.  Because I had such a hard time with 2010 NaNo, trying to make my story cooperate and bully my characters into submission, I passed over chapters that I knew would kill me.  These included just about all of the chapters wholly from Marta's perspective, and now that the story is "finished" and I have a better handle on her personality, I'm having to go back and add in those parts.  I also jumped straight from Newport, RI, to Gibraltar with Tip and his companions, because at the time I had no idea what to do with the Atlantic crossing.  I have ideas now, so again, more adding.  This business could come toward the beginning of the process, where I ripped out subplots; the only reason it didn't is because I wasn't ready to do it then.  I intend to do this as or after I transcribe the smaller edits.

And there you have it - how I edit.  (I try to keep things fairly simple, because it keeps me sane.)  What about you?  Do you have a process you follow?


  1. Oh, thank you, Abigail! 'Twas helpful! Really, I was very unsure of how I would do it, and it seemed rather complicated to me; so thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Thank you, Abigail, for this post - it was helpful and interesting, plus I always enjoy to hear how others go about it all!

    I like to read my novel aloud, as it seems to really help to hear it read. I've caught some things that I didn't notice when I did a silent read. And yes, it does help to have a printed copy of your novel - editing seems better when you have physical paper and pen in hand. And if truth must be told, a certain part of me dreads editing and "slashing" my book!

    Definitely, I enjoy the writing process better than the editing process. :-) Sometimes I think we get so close to our book we can't see what exactly is wrong with the poor thing.

    There's a wonderful book out there called, "A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction". It's published by Tyndale House Publishers, and is available at www.christianbook.com . I highly recommend it; it is a wonderful, helpful, inspiring read, and I know that it has been a blessing for my writing.

    Thank you again, Abigail! Best wishes for your writing...and editing! :-)

    A fellow writer,


  3. Thank you!
    As I am currently attempting my first real edit on Hwinny's Story, I can use all the tips I can get.
    Right now my process is to go through each chapter individually on my computer and remove or fix anything I find glaringly wrong, and to remove what I know to be unecessary details and descriptions. I already ended up doing quite a few changes in the chapters I worked on last night.
    I do like your idea of printing out your story and putting it into a notebook for further edits. If our printer will cooperate, I may just have to do that, myself.

  4. I don't have a process as organized as you, lol. I've printed out the first five chapters of my novel and then read it and it has changed a LOT since then. But it still isn't perfect. I still haven't finished the first draft(which I am trying to do). Once I get into writing it, I think I'll finish it like a roller coaster ride. Thanks for telling us your method! I'll be sure to use it once I finish the first draft.

  5. Emily - Glad I could help! As I'm an orderly person (most of the time), I gravitate toward any system that helps me organize. Actually, sometimes I get so caught up in the process of organizing that it doesn't help my writing at all...

    Patience - Oh, yes, I have heard people talk about "read aloud" edits. It sounds like a great idea and I may very well implement it farther down the road; it's easier to miss things in silent readings than when reading aloud. It does feel odd, though, to be reading your own story to yourself!

    Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely have to look that up; it sounds like it would have some interesting tips.

    Rhoswen - I always use our church printer for such major products, as our little home printer would surely give up the ghost halfway through. But it is nice to have a hardcopy of the novel; editorial thoughts come much easier to me in that format. Anyhow, I wish you the best with Hwinny's Story! Tackling the first round of edits is always a major project.

    Writer4Christ - I did the same thing with White Sail's a while back: printed and edited the first few chapters, because I couldn't stand knowing how awful they were before! I hope these tips help with your editing, but be sure to use whatever method works best for you - the same process doesn't work for every writer.

  6. I actually read my books aloud to my siblings - they are my "fans" :-). Last book of mine I read aloud to them (I Will Not Deny), they all told me it should be made into a movie! LOL - I told them that was impossible; besides, it was only the first draft of the book...! But you can be sure that they made me smile.

    I was wondering where you printed it as well... :-) Is your church printer a laser printer?

    Thank you, Abigail!

    With love,


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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