Writing Tips / Layers of Editing

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Hey cats. Welcome to my brain.

In my last post, where I talked about the difference between three well-loved books series, I mentioned layers of editing, and how the heart and soul, at least for me, usually appears at the very end of the writing process. So, in that same vein, I’d like to talk a little bit about my editing minefield and see if you might be tiptoeing through something similar.

Oh, and feel free to repeat any step. I usually repeat steps two, three, and four a couple of times each. Because I’m neurotic, maybe.

1) In my first layer, all I try to do is vomit out the story. Sounds pleasant, right? This tip was passed on to me several years ago by my favorite college creative writing professor. She’s an old hippie who bikes to school in her Birkenstocks. She is the baddest babe thus far. She taught me to write without thinking, to get the story out, even if it sounds like absolute junk.
2) Now that you have your story, I recommend a side-by-side rewrite. Pull up each chapter one by one, and pull up a new page beside it in a split screen. It’s likely that in your first write-though you’ve stumbled upon better plots, stronger character arcs, et cetera, than you had initially outlined. This is a great chance to rewrite the beginning as much as is needed and for mass revision of plot or events. For the love of Melville, don’t try to edit your original. It will get too messy and stressful. Two screens, friend, two screens.
3) You should now have a more refined manuscript. I mean, in theory. And if you don’t, see step number two. Otherwise, now is a good time to get wordy. Get down with your bad inky cat self. Change the bland, white-bread words you puked out into gripping, powerful ones. This is the time for language to punch the reader in the face (sorry, too far).
4) After all this time, you should be intimately connected to your characters, your plot, and your message. Now is the time to find the soul. This is where you want to refine your nods to your themes, work on emotional connections between the reader and characters, and let the story blossom into life. This is a step that might not seem necessary, but it’s the X factor missing from many books or stories I read. It’s vulnerability. It’s vital. No skipping.

If only it were this easy, right? We’d all be Kerouacs.  But I hope these tips at least give you a shove in the right direction. They’ve helped me sort my thoughts more times than I can count, and have helped me deal with one thing at a time.

Happy reading, and smart writing!

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