Write Forward, Edit Back

by | Feb 24, 2013

Last Updated:
Feb 24, 2013

Editing is a mind game. First, you must convince yourself that a significant portion of all that hard work you just poured forth must go. All those clever turns of phrase that had you giggling like a maniacal genius at 2 a.m., well . . . they just clog up the plot, I hate to say. Good editing is an exorcism. When done, a smoothed and efficient narration should shine forth interwoven with lingering threads of spellbinding dark places.

And that is just the plot.

The other chunk of editing is the grammatical. Here the mind game is simply paying attention. There are so many words of advice for finding those missed words, commas, or extra adjectives. I agree with the adage to read aloud, however . . . my husband doesn’t agree with the adage of reading aloud. We live in a very small space. He loves quiet. Its a conundrum.

What I’ve found that works for me is to edit chapters out of sequence. I think the hardest thing about editing is that at some point, you start reading. Wrong move! Reading is enjoyment, getting caught up again. You start seeing what you want to be there and miss the spelling mistakes.

I did this somewhat in Born of Water. There I developed another technique I use that is related: I read/edit all the chapters in the same POV to make sure the character stays consistent. But I’ll talk more about that when I write about character development tricks. I’m trying to stay focused on editing. 😉

This idea of mixing up the chapters came to me when I was working on a blog post, oddly enough. Wanting to share a piece of Born of Water, I pasted over the section, wrote the post, and then looked at it again a few days later. I must say, I was really disappointed with my writing. It didn’t pop. I thought it was actually a little childish. Eeek!

I started working on cleaning up just that little post to really make it zing. And then the next time, when I posted a bit from Rule of Fire, I did the same thing. Only that time, I found myself pasting the edits done for the blog back into the manuscript. It had changed that much.

I suppose I could copy bits of chapters into another document, edit, and then paste back. But, I’m trying to train myself to concentrate on just the random chapter I’ve selected to work on. I’m paying attention to just the one page in front of me (whose a good girl?). If I have my doubts, I’ll copy and paste to a fresh document. Worse case scenario, I’ll give my husband earplugs. I think he always wanted a set of the Bose sound dampening ones . . . .


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Written by: Autumn

Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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  1. Bruce Blake

    I took a class with Donald Maass about creating tension in your manuscript. He suggested editing the manuscript completely out of order…literally throw your pile of written pages up in the air and edit them in whatever order you pick them up. I haven’t done it yet…I don’t want to break my laptop!

    • Weifarer

      !!! lol, too bad you can’t shake the laptop and have the chapters rearrange themselves . . . wait, that could be really bad! Editing out of order makes a huge difference for me. I can’t believe the mistakes I missed on the first edit done front to back.

      • Bruce Blake

        Maybe I should start writing on an etch-a-sketch.

  2. Debbie Olsen Strine Chapoton

    Saw your tweet. Came. Read. Liked. Have you tried using Scrivener? That would allow you to edit forward, backward, and inside out and it’s perfect for rearranging scenes. Love your POV idea. I recently released a book with 5 POVs, 4 in the 3rd person past and the main character in first person present. Editing your way really helped.

    • Weifarer

      Hi Debbie, thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you liked the post! I haven’t tried Scrivner, though I’ve heard good things. I do most of my editing and writing on an iPad and only crack open a laptop for final formats. Scrivner may someday do an app, but I’m not going to wait for them. Too much to write!

      Your POV idea sounds interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever read a story that switched from 3rd to first. Was it difficult to write?

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