Tackling the Art of Revision

“to write is human, to edit is divineā€ – Stephen King, On Writing

Picture1It’s time to revise the second book in The Conjurors Series, and I must admit that I’m thrilled. Other than creating the plot outline of a story or series, my next favorite step in the writing process is editing. I love connecting the dots, deleting the excess baggage, and even fixing the grammar. It is a restful period after the mental weightlifting that is writing the first draft. Some days I edit a page or a scene, and others I make it through chapters at a time.

Being a creature who loves to research the best ways of doing everything, I began to look into the best way to approach the editing process. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a lot of insight out there from my favorite authors, like J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Cassandra Clare. I think maybe that’s because editing is an intensely personal process that is different for every writer.

I read a cool article in the Boston Globe about how the modernists changed the way that we edit today. Back in Shakespeare’s day, when there were no computers (or typewriters, for that matter), authors would put pen to page, write carefully, and call it a day. The modernists, like Hemingway and Eliot, would write and rewrite, sometimes 10-12 drafts. The end product often looked nothing like the original draft. As tempting as it is to want to go back to the days of writing well the first time, I suspect that the way writers think has fundamentally changed. We can’t go back to a simpler time, and I for one am going to embrace it.

What’s worked for me is first and foremost getting others to read my first draft. I had a lot of success with the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror when I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series. For book two I have a trusted group of readers whose opinions I trust. Their advice is invaluable in helping me take my work to the next level at both a micro and macro level. They always think of things that would never have crossed my mind, no matter how carefully I edited my work.

I also focus on sections of the story that I know are crucial moments to make sure every word is just right.Then I look at the bigger picture, referring back to my outline to make sure all of the plot connections are in place and that my themes and mood are carried throughout the story.

I’m always on the lookout for new techniques, so let me know – what works best for you when you’re in editing mode?