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Confession: I only pretend to hate editing.

Updated: Nov 30, 2018


Actual photograph of my process.

Like everything else in indie publishing, editing means different things to different writers. To complicate things further, there are different types of editing and not everyone agrees on definitions.


In traditional publishing, you might have a structural, or developmental edit, a line edit, copy edit and proof read. My process is a little different, and it's evolved over the last two and a half years. Here's how it's working for my new novel, The Blurred Lands.


I have a first draft. It's 115,000 words long. That's too long, but I know why. It's a new story in a new genre for me, so I didn't know exactly who the characters were and what was going to happen before I started. Don't get me wrong, I didn't sit down without a thought in my head. I save that for meetings with my accountant. I had a few pages of notes on the world I wanted to create, an ending in mind, and my main character's name: John Aviemore. By the time I got to the last chapter, the first few chapters didn't work any more. Mostly because I had a much clearer idea of who John was.


Step one was cutting 6,000 words from the first section of the book. The story was all the better for it, but those extra words weren't unnecessary. They helped me find out who my characters were, and enabled me to build their world in detail.


Step two is where I am right now. The unedited book is in the hands of a select few, and I'm doing my own structural edit. I may still have some professional help on that front, but for now I'm doing it myself. This means listening to early feedback, alongside my own conclusions about pace and clarity, then cutting or adding to the story as necessary. The goal is to have the story make sense, and keep hooking the reader deeper and deeper into the book until my fictional world becomes more real than the real world, sucking them into a wormhole until...is that a bit much? Sorry. The best writers do that to me, so it's my ambition to do the same.


Step three is copy editing and proofing. I throw the novel up on google docs, and my copy editor and proofreader work on it simultaneously (in different countries - you gotta love technology). I then follow behind, and run each chapter through ProWritingAid, a piece of software that lets me know when I'm using too many adverbs, overusing certain words ('slightly' was my worst culprit). It highlights passive verbs and redundant words. It identifies any grammar or spelling issues that might have slipped through the first edits. It even identifies clichés, which, at the end of the day, encourages me to think outside the box. Does this blue sky thinking work? Only time will tell. (I'll stop now).


Step four is a final read through to pick up any stray errors once it's been formatted for Kindle (using Vellum, another brilliant piece of software).


When step three is close to completion, I'll decide on a publication date and let the readers on my email list know about it (you can sign up for that at the top of the page, don'tcha know?)


Yes, I pretend to hate editing, but the truth is it improves my storytelling. There is a school of thought among some writers that the editing process is unnecessary. Write your book, get it proofed for spelling errors, then get it out there so you can start writing the next. I find that idea tempting, and it may work for some, but I know my work is better once it's been polished. And, yes, there's a certain joy to be found in editing. It's like reducing a sauce - you end up with a richer, more satisfying result.


The Blurred Lands will—I hope—be available before Christmas, 2018.


PS The opening line was the last thing I wrote: John Aviemore was a magician who didn't believe in magic. (It might still change, but I like this one.)




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