15 Steps To Editing Your Story

15 Steps To Editing Your Story

  1. Run your rough draft through spelling and grammar checks. Visually scan the document for any other errors it may have missed.
  2. If you just finished writing the rough draft, unless you’re working under a deadline, let it sit without touching it or thinking about it for a minimum of three days. I recommend two weeks. That lets you have a break, take a few steps back, and mentally prepare to switch from writer to editor mode.
  3. Print out your story. Gather 4 different color highlighters. If you want to use just one highlighter to mark it and make notes, that’s fine. Others may prefer to color code their highlights by type of revision. Green- things you especially love. Pink- Things you cut completely from the work. Yellow- Adverbs and passive voice. Blue- sections that need rewriting but need to remain, typically these are structural issues.
  4. Get a partner. Have the partner read the story aloud to you from the digital version as you highlight your printed copy. If you can’t find a partner, read your copy aloud to yourself and highlight as you go.
  5. Revise for plot structure. Make sure there is conflict in the correct spots and an inciting incident. During the middle twenty percent of the book, make sure it’s filled with action and/or conflict. A sagging middle can cause the reader to stop.
  6. Note next to each paragraph what it accomplishes. If it copies information found elsewhere or restates another paragraph, combine these into one solid, flowing paragraph. If it doesn’t move the plot, reveal character, describe setting or develop needed plot points, decide if you even need it.
  7. Remember the pink highlights? Delete them. Yes, it hurts. Hit delete.
  8. Revise the yellow sections and words, changing passive voice in at least 60% of instances found and where appropriate. Delete a majority of adverbs. Keep what works for clarity and style, chuck what doesn’t.
  9. Look at the blue highlighted sections. Are you using the senses when describing settings? Are you showing where you should show and telling where you should tell? Note why something doesn’t work in the margins. Change what doesn’t work once you determine why it doesn’t work.
  10. Is dialogue spoken with a purpose? Does the dialogue sound like genuine speech? Are you using action to show who is speaking instead of overusing dialogue tags?
  11. Check to see if these words are weakening your writing: very, some, thing, mostly, and so.
  12. Check your use of punctuation.Edit where needed.
  13. Read aloud again after the above revision is done. It helps to have a partner to read with and get feedback from at this stage.
  14. If any final changes are needed, make them.
  15. If necessary, do all of this again. Once you feel confident the work is done, reward yourself in some way. You have a final draft.
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