Over the past few months, I have been doing the majority of my research on writing and storytelling techniques. My own style has evolved greatly during the process, as I absorbed a lot of helpful information. Today, we will take a look at other important parts of the creative writing process, which are Reviewing and Editing.
Knowing when to cut and when to keep!
Contrary to what some authors may believe, our work does not end once the writing is done. The truth is, editors are not the only ones responsible for the correction of a narrative work, that charge also falls on the shoulders of the writer. Reviewing and Editing one's work is a continuous progress, which should begin at the time of the stories creation. This method insures overall coherence of the story, because reviewing your work as you go, as opposed to coming back to it days/weeks/months later, helps minimize mistakes by keeping the overall vision fresh in your mind.
Sadly, the process of Reviewing and Editing your work is often more time consuming than the writing process itself. Before we look deeper into the process, let us take a look at both terms separately:
- -Reviewing: During the Reviewing phase, the writer or editor will be vigilant, examining the narrative and searching for necessary changes to the story at the content level (also known as “looking at the big picture”). By the end of the Reviewing pass, the writer may need to do some changes to the story, such as corrections of inaccurate facts, condense certain sections, better organize the order in which information is presented, removal of unnecessary or redundant details and other similar modifications.
- -Editing: The purpose of the Editing process is to catch and filter out mistakes in your work at the writing level (hence why Reviewing comes before Editing, no point in correcting a phrase if the entire chapter will get removed later.). The editor and/or writer will need to go through the narrative line by line, keeping an eye out for errors such as vocabulary, grammar or verb tense. The goal of the Editing pass is to make sure each paragraph, sentence and word are as strong as possible.
While researching Reviewing and Editing, I discovered how each process are very thorough, require a lot of patience and an eye for detail. A piece of narrative work will need several task-specific passes in order to weed out any possible mistakes. The goal of these revisions are to look for needed corrections and enhancing the story. The following are a list of steps taken by certain writers when reviewing their work.
- The First Pass: For the first pass, try viewing the narrative as the reader, not as the writer. Read the entire story without making any changes (it is ok to take notes regarding important corrections). This is more difficult as it sounds, and it is recommended the writer take a few days/weeks away from their work before attempting this.
- Adding Content: This pass focuses on increasing the impact of the story by expanding on existing content or filling in any possible holes. By adding information, we insure the audience better understands the content. By adding details, we enhance the reactions from the audience. (Reviewing)
- Removing Content: Sometimes, cutting a paragraph, page or chapter has no impact on the overall story. If this is the case, then it may need to be removed. In this stage, it is important to be able to tell the difference between Vital and Superfluous information. If it leads the audience further into the story, keep it. If it drag them away from the plot, cut it.
- Rearranging Content: Even when a storyline is planned out, we find that certain events would flow better or have more impact, if they happened at a different time in the story. During this part of the reviewing process, we verify if sections need reorganizing in order to improve the way the story unfolds. (Reviewing)
- Replacing Content: This is the appropriate time to make modifications to the content of the narrative by changing some basic elements. Things such as names, locations, events or characters may be swapped with better fitting alternatives. This serves to enhance the story or strengthen the plotline. (Reviewing)
- Tone Check: Tone is reflected in the choice of words we use (for more information, see my previous posts “show and tell” and “word economy”). This pass allows us to focus on the strength the narrative. Avoid repeating words by looking for elegant variations, or make the action more vivid by using descriptive verbs. (Editing)
- Consistency Check: In this editorial pass, we check the narrative for inconsistencies in tense or point of view. It is fairly straightforward, and simply requires to change any variables to the same tense or perspective adopted throughout. The tricky part is spotting PoV mistakes. For more information, check out my post on Points of View. (Editing)
- Error Check: This is the first pass which pays attention to the writing, rather than the content. Here we look for errors relating to spelling, punctuation, typos and grammatical mistakes. A thesaurus or dictionary are particularly helpful during this pass, and don’t trust your spell-checker, cause it won’t pick up every mistake. (Editing)
- Clarity Check: The text needs to be clear in order for the audience to comprehend the story. If sentences seem overly complicated, they most likely need to be rewritten. To check for clarity, it is recommended to read the text aloud. Vocalizing helps identify any laboriously long or awkward sentences. (Editing)
- The Final Pass: After having completed both the Reviewing and Editing process, revise the completed manuscript one last time, looking for any errors or last minute changes. A number of published writers recommend to print out a hard copy of the document, as it makes spotting mistakes easier.
At this point, the writer should be fairly confident of their work, and is now be ready to be reviewed by an outside source. Having your work inspected by others can be stressful, but is an invaluable part of the editing process, since no one will be more open to criticize your work than a professional or a stranger. If this proves to be too hard, you can start with friends and family, to later work your way up. As an artist, it is important to always be ready to accept feedback and remain open to criticism.
That is all I have for now. Be sure to come back if you are interested about the editing process, as I will be taking a deeper look into it in the near future. More specifically, I will be making posts about Fact Checking and taking care of Plot Holes.
Until next time!