Editing Tip #44


First Draft Fears, Second Draft Jitters ~

I know I’ve said it time and again but you absolutely must re-read your first draft before anyone else sets eyes on it. But then I hear, “I’d rather an editor look at it first, then I’ll know ahead of time what I need to work on.”

Photo by Nicolò Paternoster (creative commons)

Photo by Nicolò Paternoster (creative commons)

Does this sound familiar?

Does this sound logical?

Sure, in theory it’s a nice idea – one less draft to plod through with immediate insight into where your manuscript needs help and what you’re already doing that’s working… Now, if you edit as you write (which not many of us do), then this is a more than realistic point of view to have. Essentially, you’ve all ready done a second and maybe even a third draft during the writing of your first draft. However, at least half of all writers go with the “vomit on the page” method to some degree or another which is not conducive to the logic stated above.

Why, you ask?

While you may be temped to tweak things that don’t need to be tampered with by reading through draft one yourself, there are a number of simple things you can spot that will save your editor time and you money.

1) Missing Words (if I don’t know what you meant to say, how can I help?)

2) Large Blocks of Text (any advice you find on editing will tell you to look for large chunks of non-dialogue text as moments of info-dump.)

3) Missing Chapter Headings (if you decided not to label your chapters as you wrote, for vomit’s sake, then at least take the time to go back and number them now that you’re done writing.)

4) Word Repeats (you will see just as clearly as I will where you’ve used one word too many times in one sentence.)

These may seem like minor editing irritants but if I’m being asked to perform a line edit, the simple copy edit stuff, most writers can handle on their own, just gets in the way of understanding.

The average novel runs between 70,000 – 90,000 words. It might take the average writer several hours over a few days to just read what they’ve written for clarity’s sake. Please, do yourself a favour, even if you’re trying to save yourself time in the long run your editor will make you correct this stuff anyway – so really, you’re no further ahead.

The big thing to remember is that you can trust yourself. If you feel temped to change more major moments in the manuscript, just make a note of the location and what’s bothering you and ask your editor about it. That way, it gets addressed but you’re not potentially compromising something good by over-self-editing.

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Categories: Editing

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5 replies

  1. I always have to read it a good few times before anyone else lays eyes on it 😀


  2. Many authors will, but there are some who don’t want to tempt fate and change the wrong aspect or moment and so they won’t allow themselves the opportunity to read through what they’ve written even once… it’s times to face those fears, I say 😉


  3. If you are hiring an editor and don’t read and do some basic editing yourself, you could be wasting money. While some editors go by word count, others have an hourly rate. If they are spending their time (and your money) editing silly errors, such as the missing words (or wrong word – their/they’re/there), you may as well throw your money out the window. Get better bang for your buck. Also, if you are not editing first, you are not presenting your best effort. I think it makes the writer look a tad unprofessional. If you don’t care enough about your work to try to make it the best you can, why should anyone else care about it?

    Great tips as always. 🙂


  4. I have a similar style, Nanci! Thanks for your input 🙂


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