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  • Hollis Jo McCollum

Just a Few Touches...

As you may have noticed, I have recently made some updates to this website that (hopefully) make it more informative and pretty. Making these changes got me thinking about the process of editing your own writing. My website was nice before, but it could have been better, you know? Your writing is just the same, as is mine.

Editing can frequently perceived as a four letter word among writers. It's so hard, and tedious, and it makes us all want to cry. Yes, even the tough ones want to cry. We do more of a super manly, stern cry while sipping whiskey and a single tear rolls down our cheek, but we still cry about it. Regardless of these feelings, editing is inevitably necessary. I want to share some of the things I do personally to help get myself through the process of editing while maintaining my sanity.

By the way, even if you're not a writer, these tips can apply to various types of editing. Like, school work, emails, proposals, websites, revenge lists, etc...

1. In my first pass of editing, I'm not actually looking for grammar and spelling errors. I know it sounds crazy. Hear me out. I view grammar and spelling as finishing touches. It's actually the last phase of editing for me. The first few times through my manuscript, I'm looking for plot holes, whether or not I used the correct names of places, making sure I am consistent in character descriptions/personalities, etc... These are all incredibly important to your work, and need to be addressed early on if there is a problem. Deal with the BIG issues first, before you are at the crying stage. You'll be able to fix these big things more easily at this stage, because you haven't become fully frustrated yet. Take advantage of your own mental state.

2. Ask for another perspective. It is vital, in my opinion, to have someone else read through your writing and give you honest, constructive feedback. As writers, we are often too close to our own work to see certain issues (or typos). I am definitely very guilty of this, and find that I always rely on the help of beta readers during my editing process. If you don't have friends or family that are willing to read your whole manuscript for you for free, you can always pay someone to do it. Here's a link to some of the top freelance beta readers out there if you don't know how to find someone to hire:

3. Actually take the advice of your beta readers and implement it into your story. This can be one of the crying parts, but it's for your own good. Suck it up. Do you have to do everything they say? No, of course not. Keep in mind though that you did specifically ask them to find any issues and tell you about it, so don't ignore their advice. You don't always have to fix it in their suggested manner. You do have to recognize that there is an identified problem. So, if you don't like their suggestion for fixing it, then you have to figure out another way to do it. Your beta readers, and your potential future readers are smart. If they say it's a problem, it's a problem. Fix it. I personally often find the suggestions of my beta readers lead to a lot of enhancement in my story and writing. They don't just identify problems, they also let you know what is missing. Be nice and appreciative to your beta readers. They are doing you a huge favor.

4. Wash - rinse - repeat. You read that correctly. Do it all again, and again, and again. This is the part that always makes that single tear roll down my cheek. It's so hard to force yourself to go back into your story and self criticize over and over again, but it's necessary. I always tell people to edit ten times, then ten more, have a good cry, and do it ten more times. Don't make your beta readers go through this with you though. That's just cruel. I always send back the parts with their suggested edits for another look and some feedback, but I leave them alone once they are happy with the fix. They don't deserve the torture you are putting yourself through.

5. Most importantly, give yourself a break for goodness sake! All that constructive criticism, repetition and solution creation is overwhelming. Seriously, don't do this all at once. It takes me months to edit my work. Keep in mind, my work are novels that average 350 pages in length, so what you are editing plays a pretty big role in how long the whole process takes you. Still, take breaks. I don't just mean that you go outside and walk for an hour, then come back to it. Sometimes, yes to short breaks, but I'm talking about long breaks here. Take a whole week off from editing if you need to. It's healthy emotionally and mentally. When you allow yourself a long break, or ten, you are giving yourself space to re-calibrate. I find that when I come back from these breaks, it is much easier for me to cut those unnecessary parts out of my work, and better see what is missing or incorrectly written. The space of a long breaks allows you to detach enough from the minutia of your own work and see the big picture of your story better. The forest through the trees and all that.

Hope you found these editing tips helpful! Don't forget to check out the updates to the homepage of this site. Also, make sure to check out the social links in the top, right hand corner of the page for all my social media, YouTube channel and purchasing your own copy of To Save a World. Thank you!

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Frank Schieber
Apr 23, 2020

Outstanding blog, Hollis! BTW, check out The Carnegie Writers page on Facebook...

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