Alice’s Top-Secret Editing Procedure – We’re Here to Help YOU

Posted on March 10, 2011 by


I’m not particularly egotistical. I love what I do, and I think perhaps I might be good at it. Perhaps in a handful of years, if my career takes off, I might be persuaded to cautiously label myself “a good writer”. Perhaps. Most likely under the influence of a few G&Ts.

This is because even though I believe I can objectively say that some writing is bad, there are so many factors to take into account that it’s a headache to apply that belief to my own work, especially when you consider the “if you express a positive opinion about yourself, you’re a twat” belief that my family, many of my schools, and a few countries I’ve lived in hold so dear.

But I know I’m a good editor. I produce drafts that are nice and clean and workable. The vast majority of edits I see are edits based on stylistic preference and editing for content.

You’re thinking, “Oh Exalted One, how do I achieve such greatness?” (Um, sure you are.) Grasshopper, I will tell you. Listen well. I shall reveal my standard editing procedure:

STEP ONE (for optimum results)
Read a lot of books. Make sure a good many of those are “classics” and “great literature” (whatever that is), but do not restrict yourself to any one genre or set thereof. Love some books so much you attempt to copy them. Learn spelling and grammar from many different eras and literary conventions, and learn them well enough to copy them successfully.

STEP TWO (may replace step one or complement it)
Pay attention in school when taught grammar OR learn Strunk & White and/or MLA by heart.

When you finish writing a sentence, edit.

When you finish writing a paragraph or scene, edit.

When you finish writing a page, edit.

When you finish writing a chapter, edit.

When you have finished with the first round of edits after writing a chapter, print out the chapter. Edit by hand.

When you have finished a chunk of chapters that constitute a coherent part of the manuscript (like a mood, location or volume), edit. When you have finished the first round of edits, print out chunk of chapters. Edit by hand.

When you have finished the manuscript, edit. When you have finished the first round of edits, print out the manuscript. Edit by hand.

Whenever you receive feedback throughout the process of creation, edit with that feedback in mind. (It is not necessary to make the suggested changes, only to keep them in mind when editing.)

Whenever you are too lazy to write for the day, edit the manuscript.

Whenever you take a breath in, edit the manuscript.

Whenever you do not take a breath in, edit the manuscript.

Whenever you are finished with editing, print out the manuscript. Edit it by hand.

When you are finished with these steps, you will have edited your manuscript approximately 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 JILLION BILLION TIMES, and your manuscript will be just as lovely and clean and presentable as mine are.

“Clean” does not of course equal “good”, but I promise you this kind of OCD approach to editing will make everybody just that much more inclined to be generous with your work.

99% of the feedback I get is feedback that doesn’t send me into a frothy, spittle-laden rage. Amazing, right?

The secret is that if you edit until blood pours out of your ears (yeah, only exaggerating a little here), then any negative comments are either:

a) Things you really need to hear and you know it, or
b) Ignorance on the part of the reader that you can’t do anything about (rare)

Really! That’s how it works!

It’s not quality of editing that counts; it’s quantity. The sheer number of passes. Think of it this way: if you suck at editing but you make a zillion passes before you show the manuscript to anyone else, it will be very clear what you suck at once you do, and then all of a sudden you won’t do it anymore.

And, even awesomer (I meant to type that), you can only get better at editing with each pass you do! Swear on my laptop. Money back guarantee.