Editing = Cleaning = ?

Today I’ve been cleaning and sorting through drawers and art stuff and all kinds of school work that get shoved in corners and plastic bins. Stuff like these always takes longer than I anticipate in the beginning. But afterwards, it feels good to have four trash bags full of things I may never use or look at again in the future.

Clean house = peace of mind. (Until it gets dirty again–the house, not my mind. Yeesh.)

It’s amazing how much clutter we can accumulate in a matter of weeks, or even days. Lots of unnecessary things we don’t need or won’t ever use again. (Wait for it–an editing metaphor is heading your way. You knew it, didn’t you?) Just like in your beloved manuscript, you’ll have to sort and weed the bad, unnecessary “darlings” (those words or phrases you’re absolutely in love with but they don’t progress the plot or they weigh down the pace). It will be a painstaking job but in the end, you know it’ll make for a better and shinier novel.

A couple days ago I asked for editing tips from YOU, brilliant readers, and I must say I am glad I did because I gleaned a TON of helpful stuff.

For instance:

~Let the manuscript sit and simmer for a loooong time.

~ PURPLE pens are prettier, more creative, and less harsh than RED pens. (Green is acceptable, too. Right, Phresh?)

~ Read it OUT LOUD.

~Print it out and edit with a pen (instead of editing on the screen). Highlighters are useful when doing line edits.


~Edit, rinse, repeat.

~Chapter map in a grid, with columns for page numbers, brief chapter summaries, and potential plot problems and questions. (I like this one!)

~Do NOT over-edit.

~Cupcakes are okay during editing. And lastly, don’t be afraid to write BOOYAH! at the end of your ms. Have faith in yourself and in your writing.

So. The metaphor? Editing = cleaning = happy me. The process may be tedious and physically laborious, and really, who likes cleaning houses, right? (Except for my mom.) BUT! The end result is something to look forward to.

Confession: I haven’t done any EXTENSIVE editing before in any of my mss. So I consider myself a newbie at editing. When I write my first draft, I occasionally make notes in my Word doc. (If you don’t know this: You simply highlight the word or words and click on Review located in the top bar, then New Comment.) I’m a slow writer because I don’t merely pump out words–I review them as I go along. Yeah, blame my internal editor. It doesn’t mean my first draft is clean and error-less. It just means I’m a neurotic writer who second-guesses herself a LOT.

This is my BIG book of notes. Ha! Yeah, I write EVERYTHING down–from chapter outlines, ideas, character names, phooey queries, synopsis attempts, grocery lists, TBR lists, and anything that catches my eye while surfing the net.

Here are some helpful links I’ve been perusing lately:

I, Editor by Robert K. Lewis via From the Write Angle blog

Editing Your MS in 30 Days or Less by Elana Johnson, YA Author of Possession

Over-Editing and Self-Esteem by Joyce Alton, Yesternight’s Voyage blog


27 thoughts on “Editing = Cleaning = ?

  1. I'm right there with you. I'm editing my first novel right now and don't have a good idea of what I'm doing LOL. Good luck on your MS!

  2. I HATE cleaning! But you're right, once it gets done you feel soooo good. That is until the toddler comes and wipes peanut-butter on my pants. Well at least it felt good for a moment. Hum, this may be the perfect metaphor.

  3. This is great advice. I struggled with editting my last ms. Next time around I will follow these pointers.Another tidbit I have picked up that I intend to try is to write a little bit and then go back and do a high level edit.

  4. Jess: You and me both. *keeping fingers crossed*Joyce: *handing you a virtual cupcake*Jessie: Ah, I knew we had lots in common. πŸ˜‰ Word vomit is priceless!Erin: You and me and Jess. We will DO this thing! Oh yeah!Mindy: I hate those kinds of cleaning. Add toilet scrubbing to that list. Bleh. Jen: Yes, as soon as you're done mopping the floor, the kid spills apple juice on it. Sigh. You're right. As soon as you're done with your edits, your CP comes back with a slew of edits you missed the first round. Sigh again.Kate: JUst remember not to leave those wet clothes in the washer. They will stink, even if you will them not to.Sarah Pearson: Yep. Let the dust bunnies party for once, right? ;D Happy editing!Krista: Wise words. Since I can't edit right now (have to let the ms simmer), I'm focusing on a short story I want to write, and also outlining a story for Nanowrimo. It's a good, productive break. ;)Ashley: You are not alone, sweets! You and me and Erin and Jess. Yep.Shelly: Good luck!!! Good luck!!!

  5. Cleaning and sorting. That's been the story of my life the last few months. Takes a long time to figure out where to put your stuff in a new place. But you can do you!I launched a giveaway today! πŸ™‚

  6. I love your blog – it seems like I always feel invigorated and ready to tackle the writing process with enthusiasm afterward. I'll be using these editing tricks before long, so thanks for the list πŸ˜‰

  7. What a fabulous post. FABULOUS! I agree. Editing = cleaning = happy me! I'm so glad I am not alone. And thanks for the wonderful tips and links!

  8. I totally think that editing is like house cleaning! Very deep cleaning. πŸ™‚ And yeah. It makes me all kinds of happy. Another piece of editing advice that I love– go through it one time toward the end of revisions with the FONT CHANGED. A highly readable one, but one very different than Times New Roman. It helps you pick up on things your eyes missed before.

  9. David, thanks for stopping by! I'll go visit your giveaway in a minute.;)AM, awww, I love you, Owly!Abby, thank you! ;)Jen and Barbara: You guys are too sweet! Thank you!Peggy, that's a great tip! Thank you, and hey, congrats!! I just saw your news! ;)Angie, BOOYAH!! πŸ˜€

  10. Just got here through a blog hop time warp (seriously, it's almost 7:30 already? Blog hopping is clearly the best/worst kind of internet black hole…) and first of all, I am so glad to hear someone else say they edit as they write. I mean, of course, I will edit copiously at the end–but I'm a word person. I'm trying to train myself to just highlight words and phrases I want to revisit later, rather than trying to bend them to my will during drafting, but it's HARD!Also–in teacher grad school, they were very clear that any teacher who still uses red pen on a student draft might as well lock kids in the Chokey from Matilda. Purple and green are far and away the pen colors of choice; I also like turquoise and in a pinch I'll use pink but only like a fuschia or magenta kind of shade because god forbid I get too close to red. So that tip is 100% A+ material.

  11. Oh my gosh, I just whacked nearly 10,000 words from my manuscript at the new agent's request, and it was actually so much easier than I thought. (Turns out I'm incredibly long-winded.)I managed to chop all those words without deleting a single scene, and the way I did it was by concentrating on what my characters were doing while they were talking. I apparently have a tendency to over-block out their movements, so I say lots of things like: "Squinting in the sun, Noah picked at a stray hem on his jeans and whispered, 'Hey,'") When I went back through it, I asked myself, "Do we really need to know every single little thing that Noah's doing right now? Does his squinting or picking further the plot?" If not, I chopped it.(A lot. A lot, lot, lot.) Once I figured this out, the editing was super easy and almost cathartic. I would HIGHLY suggest it to anyone who needs to lighten word count!

  12. Sylvia: Thanks!The Golden Eagle: Hi and thank you!Mrs. Silverstein: Awesome! And bonus points to you for mentioning the Chokey. ;D I love that movie. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for stopping by!!Lisa: Oohh, GOOD advice! I will write that down.Linda: Hey, hey! Thanks for the follow! ❀

  13. Great book recs, thanks! And this: "Chapter map in a grid, with columns for page numbers, brief chapter summaries, and potential plot problems and questions" is excellent advice. I also once tried an exercise where I took graph paper and point plotted the scenes per tension level, to assure it had ups and downs, and never too many of either, and that it culminated into a very high spike at the book's climax. Love these tricks!

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