A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Send MS to Kindle once you’ve finished a draft and read with pen and paper at the ready to make notes.
Then print out a paper version using a different font and size and mark with a coloured pen.
Jot down ideas and questions to yourself as you’re writing so that when it comes to your edits, you already have a few things to keep an eye out for and usually your edits will fall in place around these “alerts” you’ve set yourself.
Organise yourself! Set targets and meet them.
Skim the editorial letter to get the main points, then put it away for at least two days so you can a) cry, b) drink wine, c) tell your significant other that you can’t do what your editor wants, and (finally) d) get your head round it and realise you can do it after all.
Do it on paper! It’s almost impossible to catch typos when you’re staring at a computer screen, and having the words on a physical page in front of you will make you feel like you’re reading something new and fresh!
Don’t start editing straight away – you need time apart from your work to gain perspective on it.
Be brutal. They’re just words.
Create another document for pasting in all the cuts you make; chances are you’ll never look at it again but it makes holding down that delete button a little easier on the soul.
Formatting a manuscript as it will appear in printed form can highlight areas that need attention, and reading your work aloud (or asking someone else to) can help identify where the words don’t flow as you want them to.
I paste cut text in a second document. This allows me to be ruthless – I can always retrieve it later (but I never do).
Focus on the strengths of your story as well as the weaknesses. It’s easy to forget to look at what works in your book when you’re so busy searching for all the bits that don’t, but knowing the core themes of your novel and all the great bits that make it what it is is just as important. Do spend time on figuring out the heart of your story (which is often something I only realise towards the end of writing a first draft) and then work on highlighting and enhancing those aspects that feed into your story’s core.
I’ve always felt grumpy and reluctant when faced with editing, but at the end of the process I always feel as if the book has improved quite dramatically. So the tip is simply to bear with it – and reward yourself as you go along with coffee/chocolate/whatever you like, every hundred pages or so, as an incentive.
Never do anything in a hurry. Even if you’re on a deadline and you have limited time, it’s always worth reading through your edited manuscript or edit letter and letting it rest for a day or two before you a) get into an argument with your editor, or b) start to make radical changes you might have to work to fix later.
Read your first chapter. When the action really starts, when your ears perk up and you begin to take notice, draw a line above that paragraph. Then delete everything above that line!
Leave as much time as possible between finishing a draft and re-reading.
And always ask yourself – is this scene really necessary? Does it move the story on? If no, then it shouldn’t be there.
When you do a big structural edit, it’s really easy to get attached to things that aren’t actually that important to your story. So, here’s my tip: go through what you’ve written and choose three characters, or themes, or plot points, so integral to your book that you’d be willing to fight a ravenous tiger just for the privilege of keeping them in there. Those three things are sacred. Everything else can be changed.
My editing tip.. Look at your word count and aim to reduce it by a certain amount. Take out all the ‘dead’ words- the ‘buts’ or ‘ands’ or ‘thats’ and so on. It makes me think of a comb going through hair; what you’re doing is freeing up the knotty parts. Sometimes it hurts a bit too!
Be your own best critic. Treat every line you have written as if it can be improved – more often than not it can be.
Read through your draft and take notes on what you want to edit, categorising changes as Big, Medium or Small, depending on how much of the story they’ll affect. Tackle edits from biggest to smallest, ticking them off as you go.
Sneak up on your writing. By this I mean, turn to a page at random and check the quality of a sentence that your eyes first fall upon. (Beware: before committing to any changes, read the whole area through to maintain consistent tone and avoid word repetitions.
Allow as much time as possible between writing and editing – problems will leap out at you far more readily. Similarly, when responding to editorial comments made by others, time grants better judgement on which to accept and which to query.
I think the editing process is like doing jigsaw puzzles, you have to spot the bits that don’t fit properly and replace them with ones that do.
When you get feedback from a crit partner or an editor, don’t panic! Even the most experienced writer never gets it right first time – and that’s the beauty of writing; you don’t have to!
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, is out now, and will be followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults, THE FEARLESS, on 24th April 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands.