How Should I Edit My Story?

by Aaron Dennis 15 days ago in literature

General Editing Tips

How Should I Edit My Story?

Writers come in different shapes and sizes. Some of us write as much as we can in one day, never counting the words, and taking a day or two off to percolate. Some of us make certain to follow a stringent routine of no less than 2,000 words a day. Whatever works for you works for you, but after a novel has been written, it's imperative to edit that novel.

Some of us try to edit line-by-line, striving to make each word the best word for that sentence, and each sentence the best sentence for that paragraph. Some of us read through a few paragraphs, essentially editing scene-by-scene, and then some of us edit chapter-by-chapter.

None of these ways are right or wrong, and there's a good time to edit each of these ways, but here's the kicker:

You can’t perfect each of your lines as you write them. It’s impossible. You’ll never finish writing, and you can’t fix anything if you don’t know what you’re thinking. You have to finish writing down what you're thinking.

First, get all of your thoughts down. You can do some re-reading every once in a while in order to maintain a sense of consistency, and while re-reading, you can make changes here and there, but unless inspiration strikes, and you know exactly how to perfect a passage, make minor changes and move on.

You can always go back and edit some more!

Once all of your thoughts are down, you can read through everything you wrote. Make sure that you presented everything you were thinking; say everything you’re trying to say. After that, read through again to make sure that your audience can’t misconstrue or misinterpret anything. Remember that your audience probably can’t ask you to clarify, nor should they have a need to do so.

At least one round of editing should be done with your target audience in mind. I’m not talking genre—I mean what kind of people is your story for?

If you think: Everyone!

You’ve already fouled up.

Pick a target audience: older kids who enjoy Mythology, young adults who like a spooky tale, older adults who need help understanding technology, working adults who don’t have as much time to read as they like. You really need to settle on a target audience. If you don’t, and you try to write for everyone, you will end up alienating the people who might have actually enjoyed your work.

After editing for a specific audience, you still need to make certain your work is accurate, informative, entertaining, and relatable. If you’re writing fiction, you need to back fill all the plot holes. Make sure your characters feel like real people. Make sure to slow your story down with some description when you want to give your audience a sense of wonder, immersion.

If you’re writing non-fiction or an article of some kind, you need to double check all of your facts. Find all of your references. Make certain your non-fiction is a little fun to read.

Finally, before hiring an editor, you need to make sure that your writing is convincing. If you’ve never before rough-housed with your buddies, and you’ve never been in a fight, you CANNOT write a convincing fight scene. You can write one, but it won't be convincing; anyone who has ever thrown or dodged a fist will know you’re full of it, and you’ll lose a reader.

If you’ve never before experienced passionate love, you CANNOT write about a passionate affair convincingly. Anyone who has had such a romantic, explosive liaison will know you’re full it, and you’ll lose a reader.

This is different from writing about life on a spaceship with aliens. No one has experienced life on a spaceship with aliens, so no one will know if you’re wrong. Can you comprehend the difference? Most of you on reddit sure don't seem to get it.

Here’s what you do. If you’re writing about something that you know nothing of, find someone who has this experience or knowledge. Find multiple people with the experience and knowledge. Talk with them and take notes. Compare and contrast those notes. Then, make your writing authentic.

This is imperative. This is editing. You cannot describe something you’ve never experienced convincingly to someone who has had that experience or who does have that knowledge.

This is NOT like describing a dragon because no one has ever seen one, but here's the deal: If your character is flying on the back of a dragon, you should describe what it's like to be flying on the back of a dragon, and if you neglect to mention the strange feel of cold winds rushing into the character's sinuses, anyone who's ever been skydiving will know that your idea of flight is flawed.

Here's another instance: You cannot write about proper vehicle maintenance if you’ve never before maintained a vehicle. All you can do is read about it, in which case; why are you writing about it? Or you can watch videos on it, but again; why are you writing about it?

An easy way to sound authentic about auto-repair is to go to your local mechanic and tell them you’re a writer and looking to throw some notes together. This is editing. This is story-telling.

Maybe, one of your characters is drowning. If you've never drowned, you can't describe it, but people have drowned and lived through it, and they will know your depiction is not authentic; you'll lose credibility. Don't foul up when you can simply talk to people.

Look, there's no set number of times you have to edit your work. Some of us think one round of proofing is sufficient. It isn't. Some of us are never satisfied with our work, thinking there's still something wrong with it.

Hire an editor after you're done editing. Editors are editors for a reason. Publishing companies have editors for a reason. Writers provide a sequential account of events. Editors transform those accounts into a story worth reading.

Can your editing software handle this kind of stuff? Hire an editor. I'll never tire of saying it.

There’s no doubt that you’ve come up with something perfect for you, but is it perfect for your target audience? Why are they going to care about your work? What’s going to make your work special? Don't you want your audience to "believe" your story is happening? Editors know about this kind of stuff.

Thanks for reading. For more advice about editing, be sure to visit StoriesbyDennis.com. There are numerous articles like this one free to view.

literature
Aaron Dennis
Aaron Dennis
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Aaron Dennis

Creator of the Lokians SciFi series, The Adventures of Larson and Garrett, The Dragon of Time series, and more.

See all posts by Aaron Dennis