Self-Editing or How to Keep Your Brain From Eating Itself

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I got my edits back from my very patient and all too kind editor. And now is when the blood-letting starts. For me receiving my edits is a lot like report cards week at school—exciting and full of dread. You know you did your best, but you worry about any nasty surprises that may be in there. (Fun Fact: I got a D in typing my Freshman year. TYPING!!!! Can you believe it?!)

As writers, we are our own worst critics. We like to imagine the worst and allow that to feast on our brains. Any “nasty surprises” I dread would be things like finding out my astute editor has located a universe-ending plot hole that I never realize existed or that I change my main character’s name mid-story and didn’t realize it. But, hey, it happens. The question is how to tackle it in an efficient, brain-cell saving manner.

Here are some ideas on how to do your edits and avoid a brain meltdown: (*Note – I’m assuming that you’re using Word or a word-processing system that has a means to track changes here. And you’ve just got your edits back from your editor.)

s_c_b“Remember, short controlled bursts.” Define a beginning and an ending for each session of editing and stick to it. If you keep plugging along you’ll start to lose focus and get sloppy. Mistakes will slip through the cracks. Best to come back to it and view it with fresh eyes rather than muscle through.
average-joesAim low. Focus on the easy fixes: grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. That will clean up your screen and make it feel as if you’ve made some progress.

 

Broad strokes. If you come across any changes that affect the whole story, this is where the “Find and Replace” feature is your best friend. For instance, at the start of your story, you spelled your character’s name one way and then mid story got creative with the spelling. You can use Word’s Find and Replace (control + F) to hunt down all the misspelled instances and then replace them with the proper spelling.

rabbitholeAvoid the rabbit holes. When you work section by section with your edits, resist the urge to “jump around” to double check things. If you’re like me, you end up disappearing down another rabbit hole and losing the original thread of your revisions. If you do feel such an urge, scribble yourself a note on an index card or notebook as a reminder for later and then proceed with the edits to the section at hand.

Many editors and beta readers like to use “Comments” to communicate their edits. It’s a great way to keep all the thoughts and ideas together in one spot.

One of my favorite tools for editing and one that’s helped strengthen my writing skills is the Word Loss Diet by Rayne Hall. I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s part of her Writer’s Craft series, which is also a wealth of information. You can find Word Loss Diet for the ebook and at a great price too.

I hope these tips serve you well. How do you like to approach editing? Be sure to leave a comment below or share this post with others.