Category Archives: Editing

Edit 7 (Line edit)

The line edit is the only point where I feel I can legitimately turn the book over to another editor, even though I don’t. The line edit looks for missing words, doubled words, various typos and overused constructions.

I change the font, both size and color, so that it looks different on the screen. I catch a lot of typos that way simply because my brain assumes if it LOOKS different then it IS different. I catch more when reading on paper, but I hate to print out a copy of the book until I think it’s finished.

This is also my “backward” edit, where I start from the end and read backward one sentence at a time.

This is where I look for words like “that,” “of,” or gerunds (words ending in ING) linked to a verb. If “that” can be replaced with another word, it’s often being used wrong. Do I have too many adverbs (as unlikely as that may seem)? I also look for any passive voice. Use of the word “was” is not the only form of passive voice.

I look for any of the following linked to or used as a verb: Could, should, may, might, must, have, has, had, shall, will, would, can, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been. I mark all of these in my document and go through them to verify if it really needs to be there. Sometimes passive voice is the best way to get my point across (for example if something really did happen in the past) but often I use it as a crutch.

Words used incorrectly, such as than and then, or their, they’re and their. I know the difference, but sometimes my brain…no, let’s not malign the brain. Sometimes my <i>fingers</i> get confused.

I also have various phrases that I know I use way too much, such as the word “breathed” used as a dialogue tag. I use the word “amused” a lot, and a few others. I keep a cumulative list in my editing file.

So the line edit is the catch-all. All the major problems should have been fixed previously, although once in a while I find something at this stage and the book has to go back to one of the other edits.

If I find major plot problems in edit 7 the book has to go back to the plot edit. If I find description problems in edit 6, it has to go back to the description edit. These are major issues, not little stuff, and usually in a case like this I cheat and skip the other edits for everything but the pieces that have been massively changed. If it can be easily solved without another edit, I just take care of it.

I want it to be right.

In essence, I spend one to two months writing and four to six months editing. While I’m editing I’m writing the next one…or two…or three…

Right now I’m so far behind, I’ll never catch up. 🙂


Edit 1 Plot edit / Triage edit
Edit 2 Voice
Edit 3 Emotion
Edit 4 Description
Edit 5 Full read-through
Edit 6 Auditory
Edit 7 Line Edit

Once all edits are done, it’s time for the next step–query or self-publish.


Edit 1 (Triage)

Ava posted last week about words I use as a crutch, words I have to check to make sure they are actually needed.  It reminded me that I’ve never posted here about my editing process.  So, without further ado…

What I call the triage edit is the biggest one for me. I’m a pantser, so I write from beginning to end without any kind of outline. This leads to plot holes, characters that slip in and then slip out again, as well as a multitude of other problems. Things that happen in real life, but they’re “not acceptable” in writing.

For me this is the best way, even though it leads to more work after the fact. I like the fact that my stories are unpredictable, that the story develops as if these things are actually happening rather than that sense of deliberate construction that I get with many books.

The triage edit is the post-writing surgery phase, or the storyline edit. I read through the story, complete, once. I usually also hand it off to a reader at this point, if someone is available, because I literally can’t see many of the problems.

I am getting better at that, but I’m not there yet.

After I’ve got the plot straightened out (or at least unknotted and the pieces welded together correctly) it’s time to go back, fix the broken characters, put in missing scenes (I seldom have to take scenes out because the writing is so organic) or move them around.

Here’s where I have to decide on the final “shape” of the book. Could one character’s POV be removed or transferred to another more central character? Would a prologue be helpful? Did I start the book in the right place, does it need more or less backstory?

What about the conclusion? Is it satisfying? Does the climax follow the three-act crescendo, or is there a gap in the middle? These are all things we’re used to in the books we read, and although we don’t miss it in real life readers notice if it’s missing.

When I’m done with this I read through it again.

I have to trust myself on this piece–I can tell that something’s wrong, or something’s missing, but not always what. I can see it in other people’s writing, but not my own. If I feel something’s wrong, I’m right. So if necessary I pass it off to another reader.

Once I feel comfortable reading it all the way through, it’s time for Edit 2.