Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Step Approach to Self-Editing

My edits arrived from my awesome editor Denise at Carina Press. She prepared me for them in her cover letter. First was the acknowledged improvement from my first manuscript-a reduction in split commas and improvement with point-of-view. (Please be impressed that there is an em dash-validation that I know my split commas.)
A look at the edits in the manuscript could have been daunting but I found them categorize into: character development and information flows. I noticed that some parts of the story were well developed and others were not. I tried to understand why.
I came across an article in Writer’s Digest about the 5 Step Approach to Self-Editing that made me understand the inconsistency. It’s written by James Scott Bell. He likens the process to the geyser, La Bufadora in Mexico. It’s a natural blowhole. The tide rolls in to the underwater cave, the pressure builds, and blasts a geyser to the surface. Some are loud and spectacular and others are quiet and barely visible. The water calms and waits for the next one. He compares that to the creative writing process. 
He said that sometimes we turn off our imaginations during the quiet periods. For me it explained why some of my character development and information flows were spectacular and others barely visible. The power is in the details.
Mr. Bell goes to describe the issues as deriving from left-brain, right-brain activity-creativity vs analysis. He ends his article with four steps for self-editing.
  1. Identify a highly charged moment in your book.
  2. Make a list of possible actions, gestures, or setting descriptions that might further reflect the scene to make it stronger.
  3. List at least 20-25 possibilities, as fast as you can.
  4. Craft a paragraph using the best details for your list then edit the text until is sings.

I hope you read his article and find it as helpful as I did.
How do you approach the doldrums of creativity when that analysis takes over? How do you get re-inspired?   


  1. A great set of ideas. This insures you take the best and make it better.
    I can use this.

    Thank you!

  2. @Sandy L.Rowland

    I think I get so into the writing that I need to step back and refocus to edit. What I really find helpful is to totally step away from the story for a few days and let it settle. I find that when I do I see the story differently, more like a reader.

    ... Ruth

  3. That was very helpful post. It seems like all I'm doing now is editing.

  4. Great blog Ruth. I get Writer's Digest Magazine and I must have missed that one. That's why my refocus is going to a different place to edit. During the summer the beach. Now I need to find a nice winter place.

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Very helpful! Thank you, Ruth!

    RoseAnn DeFranco

  6. Congratulations on your personal growth and thanks for the heads-up about the WD article.


  7. That was a great post. I usually have a heart attack when I first get my edits and wonder why I thought I could write. It helps to read the initial letter and step away to digest and think about things. Actually, stepping away to get distance helps in all things editing.

  8. Very helpful information, Ruth. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. I think we all approach editing with some trepidation. This article and the idea of the ebb and flow of our creativity makes a lot of sense.

  10. Ruth, Great post. I really enjoy the editing process and feel that a lot of my creative "heavy lifting" happens there. But yet--it's like a geyser.

    On days of doldrums, it's all about coffee, exercise to get my blood moving, and--of course--reading other people's inspiring books to fire my imagination!

    Thanks for the great post!


  11. Ruth. Editing is always a challenge for me vs 1st Draft, so these are helpful suggestions
    MJ Liming

  12. I love that idea! I'm going to try that. Thanks for sharing! I often find I see the scene so vividly in my mind that the details in those highly charged scenes can be understated. Trying this out will help me pump them up! Good luck with your edits!