My editing process

Earlier tonight while I had my hand in dish water, it hit me. I repeatedly discuss my editing process with people individually, but maybe it would be a great idea to put it on my site!

Ya know, so that were someone to come to my site for the first time and stumble upon my editing box on the front page (I’ll link to this on there), they’d see this handy dandy link and go . . . what do these numbers mean?

On my editing box, I have a mention of round 1/5. Think it’s 5. I lowered it because it looked like a LOT, required more focus to update the site, and I figured I’d count the major run throughs – my first 3 are combined to 1 for that reason. Also, I was thinking it might help someone new to the editing process to understand that I’m not downright editing my book FIVE times per se. Hence I changed the terms to “rounds.” Because it’s not 5 full read throughs and picky pokes that I’m doing. Lemme tell ya, I’m sick of my book after what I DO do. I’d probably burn it were I to thoroughly edit it 5 full times. Once, I did. Those were the, “I need to be perfect,” days. My fear filled years where I needed it to be perfect or no publishing. Where I agonized over ever single little word.

Problem is? It becomes what I said to someone recently – an instruction manual on grammar and NOT a story that pulls readers in. After 7 years of publishing, here is my process. This is my process, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Doesn’t mean it will work for you. This is just how it works for my brain.

FIRST, I write the book. Yay! I write it to anywhere from 70-110K words. My most recent story was over 90K. I’m still getting the handle on setting IN the writing phase so I’ve always written light and put in more words in editing. Then I set the book aside. The minimum is one week for a short. Give it time to settle. If it’s longer, I’d give it a month. But, if you look at my main page here – http://www.kimberlysueiverson.com– you can see my “lineup.” Books I have completed, and still need to work on. My lineup gets long. When I finish writing a book, it goes to the last slot. Then the next, the same. And on. And on. So my “settling,” period can go for a year. Hence my first round in editing phase.

Which brings me to STEP ONE – In step one, I read the book. Front to back, I need to remember what in the heck I wrote! Seriously, I forget. Out of sight, out of mind. I will read stuff and go woooaahhh, this is really interesting! I actually wrote this? 🤔 I may do light grammar and line by line edits if I catch them. Even some major fixes that catch my eye. But mostly that first stage is purely to refamiliarize myself, maybe make notes.

Note – The first 3 steps are combined into “Round 1” on my home page editing box. So when I say I’m on Round 1, it can be any of these first three steps. Just below “Round blank/5” it says where I’m at in the process.

I have been marking POVs this year too (2019). Who has the POV in each chapter, how many, is it fairly even or does the second lead only have one chapter which should just get cut? Mostly that’s not a big care to me, but I’m trying to be better at it. I do stages w my learning. Right now my focus is evening out (not perfectly even) POV chapters so one character doesn’t have one single miniscule POV chapter to make it completely worthless and easily cut. That, and I’m still focused on bringing scenes to life with the senses.

In the SECOND stage, I am really focusing on plot, story, characters, notes, depth, settings. For me personally, I find taking one chapter out and going over it slowly to be my best. I may change my process later, but I go over the one multiple times (2, maybe 3). This isn’t even a long process, but it sounds like it. I really focus on setting up the scenes and characters. I want details to bring story to life. Working with just the ONE chapter in my hand (or 2 if it’s supremely short) allows my brain to slow down and really deepen the scenes with setting and detail. Things I love about Stephan King’s writing.

My THIRD stage is to input all my changes from paper to digital . This process varies on time. Usually not too bad time wise because that’s all I do. It’s real fun though if you wrote tiny notes and can’t read your handwriting. Then yes, I take a minute as I turn the paper this way and that to figure out what I wrote. Because turning it upside down will clarify handwriting, didja know? No editing unless I catch a spell error.

The FOURTH stage is first thoughts from my editor. (Called Round 2 on my homepage.) She reads through to check for major plot issues and story problems that I didn’t catch. It’s getting to the point I may eliminate this one and allow her to catch issues in the final, but for now I still like the second set of eyes. She’s my “first reader /beta reader,” here more than editor. She tells me if something is confusing, or if I got screwy on descriptions. This past book her parents also gave me their thoughts. Not a huge thing, but I like having that. I like it during this stage because then I can fix those (possible) big issues and when she next gets the book in hand, and she can go over and see if I fixed those issues. Saves time. Saves energy. We both have our specific focus points with each stage so it goes smoother and faster.

My FIFTH stage is when I get the book back and I specifically target fixes she may have marked for plot issues, and then I go deep into a list. (Round 3 on homepage.) My list is one I’ve made to target my story and sentences. It’s two pages of words like, look, see, hear, etc., that I will search individually. Tedious? Yes. But my focus zeroes in on wording. How best can I say this sentence? How do I want this sentence read? I plan to fix this list and make it downloadable. But it’s all the senses and words like, that, had, was. Searching them and individually focusing on the sentence can help really me hone in. For me, it does. Some work different. This is what works for me. Organized focus. Targeted focus. Zeroing in on specific things to search for. Again it’s about slowing my brain down because my brain likes to go go go go. And I found out that this helps me to slow down and do my best work.

SIXTH round is sending it to editor for line by line editing, for plot checks (did I fix what I should’ve, or totally lost it more), for grammar, for it all. (Round 4 on homepage.) Once again, this works for our process. Some will disagree, some will say it’s wrong, some will look at my work and judge. Oh well. This is my process. That’s all. I’m not a teacher, I’m still learning, and I only know what I know now. This will change as time goes on, I’ll learn more, so will she. This process has already changed a few times. Each book can be different too, depending.

SEVENTH round is when I get it back and decide what changes to default to or keep original (she marks suggestions versus must change). (Round 6 on homepage.) What to keep, what to lose. I go over everything. When done, I begin formatting the manuscript for publishing.

Total time is approximately 3 months. Can become 4, can be 2. Again, depends on book. Also, life circumstances.

The reason I also like doing my books in stages is because I have a problem with boredom. If I get bored and I allow my brain to become stagnant, it can tend to rebel and shut down. And/or I get more headaches than normal. We go back to the go go go go aspect of it. So when I work in stages, I’m able to look at the book, then get it out of my face, out of my hands, and work on another while my editor has it. My process gives me the mental clarity to focus and I tend to focus better on ONE thing when I have multiple things to focus on. Then again it’s a delicate balance. If I have too much to focus on, then my brain does the same as too little. It’s all about working with your natural rhythms and the way your own body and brain function best.

Others I know have to dive deeeeeeeeeeeep into only one story, one genre, and one solid deep edit. I couldn’t do that or I’d have massive issues with migraines and headaches, worse than I do now. So for them, this process could never work. But one day it may switch and those same might do it differently and I adopt how they’ve worked. No telling. Hopefully you enjoyed a looksie at the process I’m doing NOW (2019), and maybe even gathered a few tips to try for yourself. Or not. Either way, hope you enjoyed. 🙂

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