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How to do express editing of your first draft?

It took me one year to write „Mermaid Princess Amelia and The Lost Symphony”. Then, it took me another year to correct it. This book had only 50 000 words. Yesterday, I corrected 20 000 words in just a few hours. Today, I am going to teach you how to do express editing.

First of all – express editing isn’t for writers who write without any plan. When you write without any plans, it’s very likely that your book has plot holes. Repairing plot holes often requires rewriting and adding new scenes – which is time consuming. Express editing works when you have already done your best while writing the first draft (planned everything from A to Z, used beautiful language etc.).

One of the reasons why writers hate editing so much, and spend so much time on it, is that they didn’t give their 100% to their first draft.

Another reason is that writers are perfectionists and often get into the trap of rewriting their own writing, even if it’s well written.

Here is how to prepare to do express editing of your first draft:

STEP 1 – EDITING PERSONA

To do express editing correctly, you need to create a new persona within yourself, and then, impersonate them during the editing process.

This is a great way to detach from your own book and get fresh energies to go through it once again. “Just leave it to me,” tells me my editing persona, and I know that my writer self can relax – cause now, somebody else is taking over the work.

Your editing persona can be either an editor, or a writer specializing in your genre. The best is a combination of both. You need to imagine your editing persona as somebody who is much better than you at writing, and at the same time, has your best interests at heart.

I know that all this sounds weird, a persona, an impersonation. But, this is necessary for you to step out of the author mode.

STEP 2 – FORMATTING

I know that formatting is something that we do after finishing our manuscript, but chances are you have used hard tabs. Hard tabs create irregular indentations, get deleted easily and have to be added all the time, which is bothersome. Get rid of the problem by setting automatic Word indentation. This is the best article on how to do it. 

Learning how to use automatic indentation takes 10 minutes at most, and when you are done, it will save you a lot of time and frustration with formatting. Do it now, before you start any other corrections.

STEP 3 – TRACK CHANGES, BUT SEE FINAL VERSION

Always remember to turn on “track changes” in Word, but opt to see the final version of your text. If you see all these red comments, you will omit lacks of spaces or enters, and then you will have to re-read the book once again.

STEP 4 – USE THE TEXT MARKERS

Marking the text with different colors will speed up your work. For me, the yellow marker marks the text I’ve edited already, the turquoise marker marks the translated text, and the purple marker marks the text I want to remove. It helps you to track your progress regularly, find different paragraphs quickly etc. When you zoom out on your document, you see clearly what is where, rather than reading into the text.

STEP 5 – SET THE INTENTION TO CORRECT EVERYTHING IN ONE WEEK

What’s the problem?

Writers out there are beating their productivity records. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, writing a novel with 50k words became possible. And how much could it take to read a novel with 50k words? Two days? Three days?

“But editing is difficult. It’s boring. I must think about every sentence.”

And that is a mistake. Do you think that your reader reads every sentence? No, they are caught in the story and paying little attention to the sentences, unless they are either very beautiful or very bothersome. It’s you, the author, who is fixated with sentences.

And this is the reason, why I told you to create a separate persona for editing. That persona’s task is to read the book the way a reader would read it, but correct what bothers them – and delete what makes them bored. Why? Because if something bores your persona, it will probably bore your reader as well. Such text fragments should be discarded. I know that you have sweated over them, but you don’t want the reader to do the same, do you?

It’s better to write a shorter book that has quality rather than write a longer book with lots of pages that will be skimmed later. When your reader starts skimming pages, it means that your book has too many redundant fragments that prevent the smooth flow of action. Learn to trash them, but be very careful so as not to delete an important piece of information. If you want to revisit a fragment later, use a marker to mark it.

STEP 6 – SIT DOWN TO WORK

Do you want to know how I actually corrected 20k words yesterday? I sat in my room with a mug of apple tea and made sure the door was closed, so that nobody would disturb me. Then, I put on the earphones with an instrumental album. I opened the text file, formatted it, set the track changes option and chose to see only the final version. And then, I started reading. And while I was reading, I automatically corrected everything that I didn’t like. I marked my progress with yellow marker and I marked the fragments to delete with the purple market. I got into the story and I edited it till the end. After I finished, I wrote down things that I wanted to improve. And that was my express editing of the first draft.

STEP 7 – WHAT NEXT?

Express editing is what it is – express editing. During express editing, you might discover that there are parts of your text to which you would like to dedicate more time. Write down what you’d like to correct if you were to express edit your book once again. And then, embark on another express editing session. This will allow you to polish your book in a very short amount of time.

After you are happy with the outcome, send the book to a professional editor. You’ve done your part – now it’s their time. The text you send to the editor should be as perfect as it can be – so that the editor can focus on things that you don’t see, rather than on the ones you do see (but didn’t take time to correct).

This article is very long already, so I’ll just add a short remark: we, authors, need to change our mindset towards editing. Getting angry over the imperfections, and a negative attitude (“Gosh, why do I have to do it?!”) is the worst. Try to treat editing as an opportunity for you to read your book again and make it better while you are reading.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired.

Author:

Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

3 thoughts on “How to do express editing of your first draft?

  1. Thankyou so much.. it’s really a helpful piece of writing. Recently, i have finished writing my debut novel and i was procrastinated regarding editing.. thankyou for showing me a way to tackle with it..

    1. Thank you for your comment, Angelina! I also used to procrastinate during editing, and only recently changed my attitude. I hope that you can edit your book fast! Good luck!

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