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A top-down revision and editing approach that seems solid

July 25, 2012

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I struggle with revision. I start off with the best of intentions and wind up writing yet another first draft for my work in progress. Serial first drafts of the same story aren’t a way to accomplishment, fun, or profit in writing.  I need to get past that consistent barrier to achieve my goals.

A recent blog post by Rachelle Gardner is guiding a little of my strategy. In it, she lays out three levels of editing that most books go through:

  • Macro edit — The big stuff. Plot, character, scene issues. In her world, the author doesn’t get anything fixed. Instead, you get a set of notes about what to fix. After all, it’s your book and you need to figure out how to make things work. You can look it up in the official publishing industry job descriptions database. For me, it’s things like Make Catherine have to talk about the need to work out and watch her diet, even though she works in radio. And work in a quote that Janis Joplin doesn’t know jack about freedom.
  • Line edit — In Rachelle’s world, this is done with Track Changes in Word, and with comments. After all the big stuff gets ironed out, this edit tells you about the little inconsistencies and issues you have to resolve. This edit makes sure your work conforms with the publishing house’s style guidelines. This type of edit is the logical next step for your work, as well. If you’ve handled the big stuff, then it makes sense to look for inconsistencies. I would think a little break from your work would be useful for this type of edit (or a beta reader, if you’re blessed enough to have one).
  • Copy edit — This is the edit most people think about where grammatical issues are identified and resolved. This one requires a lot of attention to detail, and if you’re trying to sell your manuscript, you might want to pay for this type of editing.

As someone who’s an unqualified expert on writing first drafts (sit down and write your butt off), I need a plan for pursuing the next step. This top-down approach seems like a good place to start.

How do you handle editing and revisions? What do you struggle with?

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