Friday, August 6, 2021

Editing Tips and Tricks

Hey'a, all! As I mentioned in my July Doings post, my big project this month is editing Gilded in Ice (again) based on feedback from my beta readers. In honor of that project, I thought I'd share some of my favorite tips and tricks for making editing as painless — or, at least, as effective — as possible. Hopefully these will also be helpful for anyone who's now facing the challenge of editing their Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

Editing Tips and Tricks

  1. The first time you edit, retype everything. Or, at least, as close to everything as you can. This is a technique I picked up by necessity — again, until 2020, I've generally written all my first drafts by hand — but I've continued to use it even for stories I draft digitally. For me, at least, retyping everything makes it easier, both practically and mentally, to change what needs to be changed and to look for those changes. After all, if you have to retype it anyway, making adjustments isn't so bad. (This also helps me make my prose more concise, since I often want to shorten the amount of time I spend editing.)
  2. Change the font from version to version. There are a few different reasons why I do this — admittedly, one of them is that I don't write my first drafts in what you'd call professional fonts. Why you should do it, though, is that changing the look of the page helps you break out of the urge to skim or to zone out because you've seen this so many times, especially in late stages of editing. Of course, there are a lot of ways to accomplish similar changes: printing your manuscript, switching from black on white to white on black, or even just adjusting the zoom level. You don't necessarily need a new font for every version, just for the first one or two major rounds of edits and any time you feel you're growing too complacent. (As a bonus, changing your font means you don't miss any mistakes in punctuation because your font hid them!)
  3. Many eyes make easy edits. Look. No matter how skilled you are at grammar, you will miss stuff because this is your story and you've seen it a hundred times and you're attached to all your little stylistic bits and bobs regardless of whether or not they make the story better. So get another person to look at it at some point in the editing process, whether that's a paid editor, beta readers, or a fellow writer who you trade manuscripts with. Just make sure they understand your style and have a good grasp of the laws of grammar.
  4. Save what you cut! The hardest part of editing is cutting lines, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that you really loved . . . so make it easier on yourself both now and in the future by saving what you cut! The easy way to do this is just by creating a new version of the document for each stage of edits, but you can also copy bits you cut into a separate document and save that. Then, in the future, you can come back to those pieces to reuse them if they fit somewhere else . . . or you can realize they really aren't that great and feel good about yourself for removing them.
  5. Don't rely too much on spellcheck — of any kind. If you're a fantasy author, you're already used to ignoring spellcheck to some degree. But no matter what genre you're writing, you have to know: spellcheck will fail you. It doesn't matter if it's Microsoft Word, Grammarly, or something else entirely. It's a useful tool that will catch some mistakes, but it won't catch all of them — and sometimes it'll flag things as mistakes that are either correct or (more frequently) are deliberate stylistic choices. Or it'll get confused by too many changes and try to suggest changes that aren't correct at all, regardless of whether or not they're necessary. The point is: if you only trust spellcheck, it will fail you.

Do you enjoy editing? What are your favorite editing tricks and techniques? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


  1. These are really good tips! I think re-typing to edit is one that's really worked for me in the past.

    Can I ask, do you use a "non-professional" font for drafting in order to turn off the first-draft perfection writer's block?

    1. On the "non-professional font" — pretty much, yes. It's close to the same effect I get from handwriting a novel — I know I'm not going to show this version to anyone, so it doesn't need to be good. It just needs to exist.


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