How to Edit ~ Part 3

Alright, epically, you’ve written art. Cool. Good job. Now you’ve got to edit it.

Aughhhhh, no one wants to do that, but we’ve all got to do it. Especially us indie authors who have no editor friends. Also, even if you’re querying, it’s a good idea to edit your manuscript and polish it until your nerves are practically done before handing it out to anyone.

So how the hell does anyone edit something that they’ve written themselves? I’ve heard it said that it can’t be done, but again, I beg to fuckin’ differ.

Here’s how I approach editing: you want to read through the text and check for 1) ‘feel’ 2) technicalities 3) all the senses.

Now, I wrote those in order of importance. First, if your happy fairy tale suddenly has bugs bursting out of bodies, you’ve got a major problem, no matter your grammar. So first things first is to make sure that your ‘feel’ stays consistent, as much as you want it to.

Secondly, ‘Feel’ trumps grammar. If it’s part of your ‘feel’ for a character to speak like a sailor, then that sticks and grammar fucks off. If you have a character that talks like Yoda, then you keep it that way and forget about sentence structure. This is important, so I’ll repeat again: Feel trumps grammar.

So say you’ve read your chapter through and through, and the ‘feel’ is consistent. Then you move on to technicalities. Technicalities includes things like grammar, your character having the right color of hair throughout the entire story, and making sure that your bread is rising in the right direction (up and out) in your baking novel.

Also, this is the part where you make sure there are no gaping ‘plot holes’. If it helps, make a running chart or list of unfinished pointers and questions as you read the novel through. But you really want to make a point of tying them all in, without disturbing the ‘feel’.

You edit technicalities as long as they don’t interrupt the ‘Feel’. If they clash, you’ve got a major editing decision to make. If it’s part of the ‘feel’ of the story for your bread to not rise, then maybe you’ve got some researching to do as to why the bread isn’t rising and work that into the novel. Or maybe you’re writing a surreal novel? Either way, you want the ‘feel’ to work with your technicalities, not to clash. So work that out.

Third, and finally, and least important of all, you want to run through your novel and check if you satisfy all the senses. In my opinion, you’re going to want to immerse a reader by tickling all their senses, like sight, smell, taste, texture, and emotion.

So let’s go back to that apple and the knife. What does it feel like? Sharp? Crisp? What colors are they? Steely grey and bright red? What does it smell like? Sweet apples, I hope. What’s the emotion you’re trying to convey? Sadness, maybe?

Now, as I said, this is the last and least important. WHOAH! You’d think this’d be the most important, but it’s not. It’s even after grammar (and I hate grammar). Why, why, why? Because, if your ‘feel’ is already there and okay, not only should you already have a certain amount of senses covered, but you should already have chosen which sense you’ve covered.

If you start every paragraph by listing the senses, your writing is going to get dull fast. The point in checking this point is not to make sure they’re all always there, but that the right ones are at the right place. I’d say, on average, to aim for three to four senses to fill per scene. If you’re really setting a scene, aim for more. If you’re more spartan and want a ‘lighter’ feel, aim for less. That’s it.

Basically, that’s how you edit your novel. You can go nuts breaking down things and saying that you need to plot out the character’s love arc and double-check that it all makes ‘sense’ and whatnot, but really, I think that if you let your intuition reign while writing and editing and sticking to your ‘feel’, your story will turn out pretty good.

 

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