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The ultimate guide to editing, revising and re-writing

A typewriter drawn in a sketchy style.

Editing, revising, and re-writing: the holy trinity of writing. They are the difference between a draft and a masterpiece. They are your secret weapons in the battle against confusion, ambiguity, and those pesky plot holes that sneak into your manuscript when you're not looking.

Why editing, revision, and re-writing matter

Editing, revision, and re-writing are the unsung heroes of the writing world. They're like the stagehands in a theatre production – they work behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. Without them, the performance would descend into chaos. Imagine a romantic scene where the hero declares his love for the heroine, only to discover that his name has inexplicably changed halfway through the story. A bit of a mood killer, don't you think? This is where editing, revision, and re-writing step in to save the day.

The three stages of editing

Picture the editing process as a journey, with each stage taking you closer to your destination: a polished, publishable manuscript.

The journey begins with developmental editing, the first stage. This is where you look at the 'big picture' of your story. You're looking at plot structure, character development, pacing, and other overarching elements. It's like looking at your story from a bird's eye view, seeing where it starts, where it ends, and how it gets there.

Next, you descend closer to the ground with line editing, the second stage. Now you're looking at the finer details of your story – the flow of sentences, the choice of words, the tone of your narrative. You're smoothing out the bumps in the road, making the journey smoother for your readers.

Finally, you arrive at the ground level with proofreading, the final stage. This is where you comb through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, looking for any minor mistakes or inconsistencies that may have slipped through the cracks. It's the last check before your story is ready for the world.

The art of self-editing

Self-editing is a skill that every writer needs to master. It requires a level of detachment from your work, and a willingness to look at it with a critical eye. It means being prepared to cut, change, and sometimes completely rewrite parts of your manuscript that aren't working. It's a hard skill to master, but an essential one. Remember, every word, every sentence, every paragraph should serve a purpose. If it doesn't, it might be time to bid it goodbye.

πŸ’‘ Read more about: Doing a paragraph-level edit, and 5 reasons your story may not be working.

The role of revision in storytelling

Revision isn't just about fixing errors. It's about refining your story, making it the best it can be. It's an opportunity to delve deeper into your characters, to tighten your plot, to enhance your themes. It's a chance to make your story more engaging, more compelling, more immersive. It's not simply about what you say, but how you say it. Revision is where you find the perfect balance.

πŸ’‘ Read more about: Questions to ask as you revise your first draft, how to use reverse outlining as a revision tool, and examining the interactions between your characters.

Re-writing: When, why, and how

Then there's re-writing – the process of starting again from scratch. It's a daunting prospect, but sometimes it's necessary. Perhaps your story has veered off course, or maybe it's not quite hitting the mark. Whatever the reason, re-writing can breathe new life into your manuscript. It's a chance to take what you've learned and apply it to a new draft. It's not a sign of failure, but a testament to your commitment to craft the best story possible.

Working with beta readers and professional editors

Bringing others into your editing process can be a game-changer. Beta readers provide fresh eyes and a reader’s perspective, which can highlight areas of confusion or inconsistency that you may have overlooked. They can give you an idea of how your audience might react to your story.

Professional editors, on the other hand, bring industry experience and expert knowledge to the table. They can help refine your manuscript to a publishable standard, focusing not just on grammar and punctuation, but also on aspects like pacing, character development, and narrative structure.

Don't be disheartened by the feedback; instead, use it as a tool to improve. Every piece of critique is a step towards making your story better.

πŸ’‘ Read more about: Questions to ask as you edit your story, deciding when to work with an editor, understanding what editors charge (and why it costs that much), what to do if you can't afford an editor, and everything you need to know about working with beta readers.

Embracing the journey of editing, revision, and re-writing

Editing, revising, and re-writing aren't just necessary evils of the writing process – they're opportunities for improvement, a chance to make your story shine. They are what turn drafts into published books. So, embrace these stages. Yes, they can be challenging, sometimes even frustrating, but remember, every great writer was once where you are now. And look how far they've come.

Genre-specific editing considerations

Editing doesn't come in a one-size-fits-all package. Depending on the genre – whether it's children's books, romance, crime fiction, mystery, action/adventure, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, war, horror, or non-fiction – each comes with its own set of considerations.

Children's book manuscripts, for instance, require an understanding of age-appropriate language and content, while a crime fiction manuscript needs a keen eye for plot holes – you can't afford to leave any loose ends in a whodunit! Likewise, ensuring consistency within the created world is key for genres like science fiction and fantasy.

Dive in to one of these in-depth guides, where we delve into the editing nuances of each genre:

Everything you need to know about editing a children's book manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a romance manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a crime fiction manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a mystery manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing an action/adventure manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a science fiction manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a fantasy manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a thriller manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a war-genre manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a horror manuscript

Everything you need to know about editing a non-fiction manuscript

There you have it – your ultimate guide to editing, revision, and re-writing. It's a journey, but with patience, persistence, and a keen eye for detail, you'll get there. Here's to creating stories that captivate, inspire, and stay with readers long after they've turned the last page.