Friday, April 29, 2011

How to Edit with Efficiency

So much to do, so little time... and all I want to do is submerge myself into my story. If you're like me, you could hide from the world and live inside your novel. Craft, create, edit, and then move onto the next.

The problem is lack of time. Sharing our writing time with family, work, reading, networking, and maybe clean our house and do laundry on occasion, takes time... and lots of it.

We get so close to our work we can't see our own mistakes, and we rush. We may make that commitment to edit slowly and read aloud, but far to often we send our novels into the world too soon.

The great idea to separate, and set our work aside for a month, is fabulous... but then what? How do we edit after that much needed separation, as efficiently as possible, with minimal mistakes, and an openness to see if the "story" and all the details work?

I know! And am in this process with a fabulous young lady, Christine Hollingsworth. Christine is a college student who had been majoring in literature, but shifted from a career as an editor to that of a pilot. She's incredibly talented. While Christine and I are working together, this is an editing process that anyone can do by themselves.

Find 4 colored pens and follow these steps:
  1. Read the entire novel for "story" only. Use your Blue pen to write comments on your feelings of your story, positive and negative, in the margin.
  2. Read your story a second time with your green, red, and purple pens in hand, and mark punctuation, spelling, and write editor thoughts
  3. Start at chapter one, and input all corrections... carefully think how to address the negative feelings of the reader, and how to fix your editor comments.
  4. Then read that chapter slowly, and aloud, to see if everything works.
  5. Go to chapter two, and continue with steps three and four.
Editor comments: These are for overall content and the connected feeling of your writing, continuity, repetition, etc. If you notice you said the same thing a different way on different pages, underline the sentence and number it with the same as the duplicate sentence.

Flexibility: Of course you can't help to mark the spelling and punctuation that pops out on the first read. Keep your red and green pens handy. But don't focus on looking for that stuff. The first read through is for "story" only.  Color of pens? Go wild.

Christine is currently doing steps 1-2, for me. I'm doing steps 3-5. This process is the most efficient way I've found to work on my novel since I began writing. I will use this process with every future novel I write. And I can do it myself... and will. But then I'm giving it to Christine, again. She's awesome! And go through steps 3-5 a second time.

Do you have a process that works? We would love for you to share it with us.

Happy Writing!
~ Karlene


  1. Thank you for sharing this with us Karlene this is fantastic! Christine sounds excellent. Is she open to other clients? If so do you have a link for her we could provide?

  2. Please give me more books to edit! My email is :D

  3. And I recommend having at least two or three pens of each color, because you'll probably run out of ink pretty quickly like I did.

  4. Thanks Captain Yaw... me too! And a highliter... can't live without it. :)

  5. You're welcome Heather! Yes... excellent, and she already has her second client.... a friend of both yours and mine.

    But Christine... I'm your first priority. Hahaha.
    Thank you so much for the great work!!! You really are incredible.

  6. Excellent post, Karlene. Christine, I have a manuscript anytime you're ready. I'll email you!

  7. No worries, I can keep my priorities in order. Bring it on. :D

  8. Great suggestions! Christine sounds like a writer's dream! The more eyes, the better. In our critique groups, we exchange manuscripts for edits. Two of our members are punctuation queens! Some are better at plot holes, etc. Everyone is so generous with their time and talent.

  9. Lol. That's why I love you! You have your priorities in focus!

  10. Wub2Write, you have a GREAT group! Hang onto them. I'm loving my editor. I'm keeping her. We're going to go to town! New York. LA. Europe. :) It's great to work with someone, too. I'm learning a lot. Hopefully the more I learn the easier her job will be. Thanks for the comment!

  11. What a funny coincidence, I'm a Literature major myself! My aspirations are to create content however. Your tips are quite informative and I may try applying some of them.

    I greatly appreciate how much you emphasize on story especially. As someone who runs into the occassional grammatical malfunction or two, I really get downtrodden when thats all a reviser focuses on.

    The rainbow of pen colors concept sounds a bit dizzying but as the old saying goes: "Don't knock it till you have tried it!"

  12. I like this approach. It feeds my love of pens and it instills order to what can be a chaotic process.

  13. Persian Poetess... excellent major! Please let us know how this works for you. Yeah for that... "Don't knock it till you have tried it!"
    Thanks for your comment!

  14. Thanks for the comment Portia! I have a theory for those of us who love colored pens in our life. Feeds the creativity! And... I love the highliter too!

  15. I'm blogging about my process on Wednesday. It's not for speed demons, though. There are some days where I can easily spend an hour improving just a single page (if it has setting--something I suck at), but the results are really worth it. :D