The Writing Life- Editing Shopping List

Don’t lie, you’re going to love this part even if you hate editing.  I’ve never met a writer that didn’t walk into Staples and hear the Halleluiah chorus in their head.

Editing is an intensive process, and it requires special tools.  While it’s true that you only need a pen and a notepad to start your rough draft, you need a little more than that now.  That’s okay, you’re worth it and so is your story.  Besides, if you sat your ass in your chair long enough to produce a first draft, you’ve earned a shopping trip.

So, here’s my suggested editing shopping list.

1. Printer paper and at least two new ink cartridges.  Or, you can do what I do and have your manuscripts printed at a local printer.  It saves me time and money.  It also prevents me from trying to replace the ink cartridge, which I seem to have some sort of mental block over.  Personally, I write out my first draft long hand, then print out my second draft in preperation for the third.

2. Red pens.  As always, I’ve got a great red le pen that I use.

3. sticky notes, to add notes to the manuscript itself while you’re reading it.

4. A legal pad.  I get ideas while I’m editing that I want to address in later parts of my book.  That’s why I keep a legal pad right at my side for stream of conscious note taking.

5. Highlighters.  All sorts of uses for highlighters, and I suggest a five color pack.  I use them for poor dialog, bad phrasing, plot holes, characters acting out of character, grammar mess ups and spelling mistakes.  Some people use them to track plotlines, but I’ve usually got so many of those that I’d need more colors than they make.  Though I will use them to track ploteline importance with the next tool.

6. Index cards.  I use these to make plotline maps, because I can make it bigger as I go along.  What I do, is write the chapter title in the color ink I used for that character’s pov. (one of my org tips for keeping povs in order in draft one.)  Then, I’ll write any plot lines discussed on the index card, higlighted by order of series plot, book plot, sub plot, or character development.  I also make a little note of the last chapter we talked about this plotline in.

7. One big plastic crate, to corral all of my drafts as I go.  I’ll separate them in the boxes I get from the printer, but if you’re printing at home, I advise shoe boxes, or any other box that’s the right size.  No need to get fancy unless you really want to.

8. Coffee, obviously.  At least for me.  But really, I’ll use any excuse to buy coffee.

9. Binder clips.  I use these to hold my pages together in later drafts so I can flip them like a book.

10. Treats.  Editing is hard.  Even for crazy people like me who like it.  I feel better if I’ve got a piece of chocolate after each chapter.

Editing is a big job, and you need the tools to get through it.  I didn’t add any specifics about these tools, because there are a hundred different kinds of high lighters, and you should pick out the ones you like best.

Take some time to pick these things up, and let’s get started.

Plans For February 2015

Here we are, another month, another theme.  This month, we’re talking about a writing topic you either love or hate.  It’s editing.  Like I said…

I really enjoy editing.  It gives m a chance to combine some of my favorite things, organization, creativity, and anal retentiveness.  It can also be terrifyingly intimidating if you don’t have too much practice, and when you’re looking at a huge project like a novel.

There’s a lot that goes into editing.  You write your first draft all by yourself, with no external input.  Editing is when you start letting other people in.  You do the research, get other people to read your work.  You run through red pens and coffee.  You think over, and re-think every word you wrote.  I often think of editing as taking my rough draft, which is a giant lump of wood, and using a chainsaw to cut it into shape.  I’ll use smaller tools to get it closer and closer to what I want, until finally I’m going over the whole damn thing with sandpaper.

This month we’ll break down step by step how to edit your novel, what you’ll need, and go over some of the trickiest parts of editing fiction.  Stick with us this month as we take our work and rip it down so that we can build it back up again, better than it ever was.

By the way, I don’t think I’ll mention this anywhere else, so let me say it here.  One of the best tips I ever learned about editing is from Steven King’s On Writing.  Don’t start editing your work right away.  Give yourself some time, at least six weeks.  Work on something entirely different, so when you come back to it, your manuscript feels like someone else’s work.  This makes it easier to edit clinically, not emotionally.

So buy some red pens, print out your manuscript, and get ready to make it better than it’s ever been.

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