Zen and the Art of Editing 3: My Way

The first time I tried Nanowrimo, I wrote a series of snippets that have gone absolutely nowhere in the years since I wrote them.

The story itself is a good idea, and I want to finish it one day. But I’ll rewrite it from scratch. Those little snippets really didn’t work for me. They were all over the place, and I couldn’t really keep up with what was happening when. It was a good learning experience (pro tip: if something goes badly, it’s not a failure, it’s a ‘learning experience’).

I learned that I work best with a big hunk of (ordered) text, an even bigger coffee, and a red pen. Coffee makes me a grumpy, harsh little editing demon, and things I’d normally overlook get picked up so much easier.

Because one of my superpowers is losing sheets of paper, I bind my manuscript. Because my lecturers and tutors totally proved the validity of it to me, I print one sided and double spaced. Yes, it’s a big paper and ink suck, but it works for me. Remember my first editing post, when I said ‘do what works for you’? It’s still true.

Like I said in the second post, I dump my manuscript in a drawer, and jump into another project, rather than immediately starting to edit. But once I’m distant enough from the story to be a good editor, it’s ready and waiting for me. I’ll settle in with a coffee, and scrawl with a red pen until I’m over it. Then I move on to something else.

I have rules for my editing time, though:

  • No editing when tired
  • No editing when the neighbour is playing with his power tools (or when his kids are having their regularly scheduled tantrums)
  • If I find myself unfocused on the story, I put it away. There’s no sense wasting time on something I’ll have to re-edit later on.
  • No editing when my flatmate is home, because we inevitably end up chatting while I work, and that makes it pointless.

Mostly, it boils down to being in a quiet space while focused solely on the task at hand.

What are your top editing tips?


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