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I have my first draft more-or-less complete, and I've been working on editing it now. There is one big problem: I hate editing

I find editing to be so draining. I'll open up a chapter to edit and it'll turn into a endless spiral of finding problems with my writing. Badly worded sentences, sentences that are out of place, continuity errors etc.

It would be great if I could find a way to improve the editing experience

  • Any reason for the close votes? (It's a question of opinions, I guess?) – Llewellyn Oct 8 at 17:56
  • My suggestion is to stop editing on-screen. Print it out, sit down with it, and read it. Then, do the mark up. You may need a few passes to be happy, but you'll also be less tempted to make spontaneous changes and thereby sink into that never-ending editing morass. Keep some notes as you go through your copy to detail continuity and other notable issues and key each to a point in the hardcopy. Hardcopy is your friend. – NothingToSeeHere Oct 8 at 18:01
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    @Llewellyn I voted to close because this question is completely opinion-based, instead of only partially, like most (if not all) questions on Writing. – weakdna says reinstate monica Oct 8 at 19:27
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I happen to enjoy editing, in a completely different way than writing.

What I usually do is print out my manuscript (or the part I want to look at), then I sit down far away from my computer, maybe on the couch or even in the park, and write different coloured comments all over it, circle words, draw arrows, etc. It doesn't have to be all negative, either: If I find a passage I particularly like, I'll also highlight that. (Basically, I critique my own writing.)

The advantages of printing it out are that you don't have to come up with solutions right away and you don't get stuck in an editing spiral. When I return to the computer, I have a clearer idea what to focus on and a clear check list of what needs to be fixed.

Another thing I like to do (and that works better when it's printed out or on a handheld device) is to act out the dialogue. That's actually a lot of fun!

  • I so agree with you, though I still prefer to work on a screen. Actually, though, I'd say I PREFER editing to writing! – Weckar E. Oct 8 at 20:31
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See editing as a different form of creation: from something not so good you create something brilliant. Frank Cottrell Boyce opened my eyes when he said that being used to writing films he was used to continually editing and re-writing, something that seemed unusual when he came to writing a novel.

Yes, discovering a word you have repeated too many times and going through and changing some of them (or something similar) is hard graft but you can derive satisfaction in doing so. See things as challenges to be overcome and then celebrated rather than problems. It's a mindset thing.

I use various grammar and style checkers after writing the second draft (I write the first by hand so that my editing will be better). These alert me to problems and save me noticing some obvious problems.

Believe that editing, making something better, is a beautiful thing. It's not a chore. It's part of the creative process.

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I like editing, because I like reading my story, and I feel good when I improve a passage.

However, I also edit with a specific list of things in mind. I want clarity, I want continuity. I don't want to say the same thing twice. I also want to appeal to senses, sight (including color), sound (is there music anywhere), gestures and movement while speaking, smell, what things feel like, how the character physically feels.

I call this a "fully imagined scene", and we don't have to list all these things, but in cases like dialogue we don't want just a wall of dialogue. Nor do we want uninterrupted info dumps. A bar and an office have different atmospheres, sounds and smells, a conversation in a bar is much different than one in a cubicle.

Badly worded sentences, sentences that are out of place, [continuity] errors etc.

Don't get exercised by these, they just confirm that you need to edit. I don't worry about mechanical crap, those are easy to fix. What I really want to know in editing is if the scene is the right scene, in the right place, and if I have included enough detail for the reader to imagine it, and not so much detail I have slowed the pace and will bore the reader. You have to be selective, and decide what can be cut, what can be assumed, what the reader doesn't need to be told.

Focus on the bigger picture, this is like writing code: Bugs are inevitable. Fix 'em and forget 'em. The bigger picture is in whether you are aiding the reader's imagination of the scenes, and holding their attention with tension so they are looking forward to what happens in the next few pages, by the end of the chapter, the end of the Act, and at the end of the story.

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If you find editing a chore you may wish to revisit your process. I don't believe I've ever written a second draft of anything. My editing tends to be incremental. Before continuing a story I sit down with a cup of coffee and re-read the last chapter or two - to get myself back into the zone. At this point I often make changes and correct errors.

There is no "one-size-fits-all" method of editing. e.g. I have a quick mind that works in a very nuanced way. I have learned that many readers do not make links which I expect them to. Subsequently, my editing invariably adds to the volume of the text.

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Editing is a lot of work, let's be honest. I also don't have a lot of experience in editing longer works of fiction (most of my works have been academic or technical in nature). However, what I find works for me is turning on some music (background noise level), and setting a goal for tasks to accomplish and realizing those goals. By having a set goal to accomplish and working towards it I have found editing to be less arduous and more enjoyable.

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See it this way: Your text has problems, if you know them or not. Even the greatest master of the craft will not be able to write a text right out of the box without any problems. Since you know up front that your text has problems, the worst thing that could happen is that you don't find them. And the best that can happen to you is that you find them.

Therefore when you find a problem, don't feel negative about the problem existing, feel positive about having found it and now being able to correct it. Finding a problem means success. Finding many problems means many successes. So you've got an endless spiral of successes!

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