TO EDIT, OR NOT TO EDIT

I finished writing a novel a little over two years ago and decided to pitch it to a couple of agents at a writing convention. Right now, I am grateful that neither agent was interested enough to ask for any part of the manuscript. Their reason: not interested in anything that contained anything supernatural. My reason: It sucked.

After I had completely explained my novel, one of the agents took the time to tell me that my novel contained too many fragmented pieces of story line. I should, she suggested, rework the piece into a trilogy.

I tried for several weeks to figure out how to follow the agent’s suggestion, but I finally had to put the piece aside for a while. In fact, I put it away for almost two years.

However, that didn’t mean that I didn’t continue to write and hone my writing and editing skills. I worked on short stories and writing to prompts and writing blog posts.

My husband’s solution was that I should hire an editor, but I kept telling him I could edit the piece myself.

At the latest writing conference, several recently published authors who were on the “success panel” spoke about working with an editor. They voiced what I already knew, an editor can charge anywhere from $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 and a couple even more.

So, before you hire an editor (Which at some point you will probably need to do.) you should really know how to edit your own work.

STEP ONE – SILENCE YOUR INNER EDITOR

Wait? What? Silence my inner editor? But?

Listen. Have you ever sat down to write and after an hour, you have written less than a page? Why is that?

Usually, it’s because we write a couple of sentences and before continuing, we make corrections.

If you have ever taken part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) during the month of November, you’ve heard that you should silence your inner editor as you write the 50,000 words of your first draft.

You can’t edit words on a page that don’t exist. So, WRITE!

WHY SILENCE YOUR INNER EDITOR

Silencing your inner editor allows your thoughts to flow freely and get your ideas on the page.

When I taught high school creative writing, I required my students to participate in a 10 minute writing exercise every day. This gave them actual material. Things that they wrote. Then, they chose one of those pieces and worked to revise and edit the piece.

Before you can get to the process of revising and editing, you need words on the page.

PROCESS

This process is designed to take two weeks. I don’t have weekends factored in; they are your writing break. If you follow the two weeks of prompts, you will have 10 pieces to practice editing. Or, you can choose to write on the weekends. It’s up to you.

It doesn’t matter if you use your computer or paper and pen. (PEN, not pencil. It is so easy to stop and erase and begin again if you use a pencil.)

Find a quiet space; your personal writing space. You want uninterrupted time.

Set your timer for at least 10 minutes.

Write to the prompt. When the timer goes off, you can stop writing or – if your writing juices are flowing – continue to write. Just don’t stop before the timer goes off. (You will find the prompts at the end of the article.)

Do not stop to edit. Do not read what you have written until you have completed all ten of the exercise prompts.

By writing short pieces, you will have ten pieces to choose when it comes time to practice editing.

It is much easier honing your editing skills on a short piece than on a long piece.

TECHNIQUES TO SILENCE YOUR INNER EDITOR

For me, pen and paper is the easiest medium to use when practice silencing my inner editor.

If you are using pen and paper, focus on keeping the pen moving. If you feel yourself pausing, start writing the word “and” until something pops into your head and you move forward.

Typing is a harder beast to conquer when working to silence my inner editor. The reason is two-fold: first, I play piano and have been trained to look at the screen (music) while my fingers work; second, typing class required us to look at the screen or the textbook because there were no markings on the keys.

So, how do you work to overcome sneaking a peek at the screen and correcting things as you go?

  1. Try looking at a picture or the television (silenced) as you type.
  2. Put a towel over the screen so that you can look at the keys as you type.

PROMPTS

Although these are listed as Monday through Friday, you can begin any time; you can even choose to write on the weekends.

Just work to write every weekday, or if you choose, write every day.

MONDAY (story idea) A thief plots to steal a valuable artifact.

TUESDAY (5 words – include each of the five words as you write, you can change the form of the word.) meatloaf – robin – raced – mixed – paper

WEDNESDAY (picture) see below

THURSDAY (personal) Write about the worst birthday present you ever received.

FRIDAY (start with this sentence) I reserved the lake front cottage because my doctor told me to take some time off and relax.

MONDAY (story idea) A mother wrestles with the decision of whether to forge ahead with chemotherapy for breast cancer or seek alternative therapy.

TUESDAY (5 words – include each of the five words as you write, you can change the form of the word.) confused – cedar chest – $10,000.00 – dining room – knob

WEDNESDAY (picture) see below

THURSDAY (personal) Write about your favorite vacation spot.

FRIDAY (start with this sentence) I took one look at the return address on the envelope and knew it was bad news.

PICTURE FOR FIRST WEDNESDAY

wed pic 1

PICTURE FOR SECOND WEDNESDAY

wed pic 2

TOMORROW? REVISION VS EDITING

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4 thoughts on “TO EDIT, OR NOT TO EDIT”

  1. awesome…love it..I too am my own worst editor enemy..I attended a writing workshop last year and it was really cool….the day consisted of breaking our editor correction tendencies. we had to write for 15 minutes without looking at our screens, took a 15 minute break and then repeated the 15 minute exercise. no corrections, no back tracking, no eyes on the screen. I was very surprised to learn that my first 15 minute exercise gained me 300+ words and by the end of the day I was typing 500 words in that 15 minute time period. At the end of the day we were told to take our work home and to then edit…I was blown away when I actually found myself to have a 5,000 word short story anddddd it made sense. lol

    Additionally, several years ago I belonged to a poetry group and we had some really cool daily exercises. A picture challenge, a continue from here challenge, a random 10 word/dictionary challenge, a what does this mean to you challenge….I loved those challenges

    Thank you for sharing your challenges and your experiences with us

  2. Great post Karna and very practical. I am going to use some of the suggestions you’ve provided here. Well done!

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