Note: This is the last post I’m transferring from my old blog. Tomorrow, regular posting schedule- Every Saturday -goes back to normal.
If you follow my blog on Tumblr, you’d notice that I’ve been posting a lot of one shots lately. Every Saturday or every other Saturday I try to post a new story, on Wattpad, my website, my blog, and even here. Because of this, I’ve been doing a shit load of intensive editing as well. Every time I draft a one shot I let it sit for a few days- Sometimes even a week -and then come back and go through all my editing phases. Because of this, I thought it’d be a good idea to go ahead and give some tips on editing.
1) Use a thesaurus.
I would recommend this specifically in the last stage of editing ((which I’ll get to in a minute)). This is because this is a really small thing to pay attention to, and the littlest details are best left for your final edit. You have all the main stuff worked out and rewritten, so now you’re just nitpicking.
Using a thesaurus is really helpful for multiple reasons, but especially because they keep you from repeating words or using your go-to words, or, otherwise, the words on the forefront of your mind. I like the way Shaelinwrites explained it: A thesaurus isn’t meant to teach you new words, but to remind you of words. You can use a regular print thesaurus or any of the millions on the internet.
I usually do this through the first read-through, my first phase. As you read through the story, take a highlighter and mark up everything that needs to be fixed that you can’t do in two seconds. If it takes more than a little thought, you need to mark it and save it for another phase. I usually use two colours at the most- One for actual errors, and one for possible quotes or excerpts -but some people use three or four, some people use one, some people just use a red pen. It’s really whatever you want to do.
Also: Don’t forget to say why you marked it. I can’t tell you how many times I highlighted something and thought the reason was obvious, then to come back just the next day and completely forget what the problem was. This might make you think you were just overreacting, but you’d still be able to tell if you had the notes there. If you don’t remind yourself, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
3) Edit in stages.
Finally! I’m explaining what all this phase shit is.
I do my personal edits for short stories and one shots in three stages: The first read-through, the intense edit, and the last read-through.
In the first read through, I write down everything that’s wrong with the story; Shitty grammar, weird pacing, bad format, out of character dialogue- I leave nothing behind. You need to be ruthless. This is when I use the highlighters.
It’s important not to spend too much time on one thing. The intense edit is where you’re going to spend the most of your time, right now you’re just making notes and fixing quick things like typos and things that take no thought.
The second stage in the intense edit. This is where pretty much all of the rewrites take place, and where all your frustrations lie. After a day or two of letting your notes sit, you come back and fix everything. You could also think of it as your “main edit.”
Finally, there’s the last read-through. Right now, you’re just cleaning up, fixing things you missed beforehand. This stage can repeat itself as many times as you need. In stories like Subtle, I did the final read-through only twice, but I can’t count how many times I reread Death With Dignity before posting. It’s shitty because every time, I guarantee, you’ll find something new to fix. The story will never be finished. This is important to admit to yourself because sometimes you’re just fucking done. This is also where you use the thesaurus.
This last one is optional, and specifically for people who need/like to market their work. It can take place in whatever stage you want, but I suggest doing the bulk of it during a later stage. What you’re going to do here is take a highlighter- A new colour -and highlight anything that could make a good quote or excerpt. Then, in between the final edit and posting ((provided you’re planning on posting)), you make the quote or post the excerpt and use it as a marketing technique. You can do this as many times as you want, but make sure you aren’t posting the whole damn thing.
4) Leave time.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m going to go ahead and outright say it: Leave time. Don’t try to do everything in one sitting. Not only is it not healthy, but it’ll also just make your work worse. You need to have time to detach to the story, and time to improve. How do you expect to make your story all that better if you’re editing it a day after writing it, with no more experience than you had when you started?
5) Pay attention to detail.
Unless you have a deadline, you need to work slow. Don’t rush through any stage, especially the intense edit. You can literally take as long as you need. If something sits wrong with you, if something doesn’t make sense, even if you can’t explain why it isn’t right, fix it. Think on it. Give yourself some time to make it great. This is your story. Make it yours.