Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Editing, Guest posts | 14 comments

5 Shortcuts to Minimize Editing Stress – Guest Post by Emily Tjaden

5 Shortcuts to Minimize Editing Stress – Guest Post by Emily Tjaden


Hello, everyone! It’s great to be here on Braden’s blog. I’m so excited to have a chance to talk with you guys!


Today I’ve been asked to share some tips and advice on editing. (Yes, we’re talking about that nightmare second-draft. Hang in there.) If you’ve just finished the first draft of your novel, you’re probably feeling pretty awesome—and rightly so. You deserve to feel awesome. After all, you’ve accomplished something great. Congrats!


But then comes (dun-dun-dun)—the editing. Editing is important and the good news is–it doesn’t have to be as dull or stressful as you imagine. This isn’t the edge of the Pit of Despair you’re standing on. In fact, I’ve got five handy shortcuts to help you minimize the stress of repairing your second draft. (You might even have some fun.) Are you ready?


1: Print Your Manuscript

You stared at a computer screen during the entire process of writing your first draft; and you know, that gets exhausting. After you’ve typed the words “THE END” and spent a satisfactory amount of time staring at them and panting, it’s time for a break. Even after you’ve spent a few weeks away from your story, the idea of going back to your desk can seem daunting. The solution? Print your manuscript.


It’s amazing how much difference it makes to have a physical sheet of paper instead of your screen. You can relax. Focus. Curl up in bed with chapter one and a clipboard. The good news here is that you don’t have to print the entire manuscript at once. Instead, just print as many pages as you plan to work on that day. (This also serves as a good goal-quantifier.)


2: Use Colors Other Than Red

The red pen is the most cliché editing tool of all time.  Writers see it and hide. Red means bad—or at least, that’s what it feels like. Seeing your manuscript covered in red ink can be pretty stressful sometimes.


When I edit, I like to use a variety of colors. Not only does this limit the “bad” feeling of seeing red ink all over the page, but it allows for better organization. I like to call this “color-code editing”. For example, red lines might tell me to delete something, while a green circle indicates where a word should be changed. That way, you can skim through your manuscript and easily see exactly what you need to do where. Much less stressful when scanning back through all of your notes!


3: Choose a Focus Area

The idea of editing can seem overwhelming at first. Where to begin, right? There are so many things to think about when going through your second draft. The solution here is to simply pick a focus point. Maybe you want to spend the day going over your sentence structure, or fleshing out your character’s emotional arc. Don’t force yourself to do this all at once, or it will be torture. It’s okay to pay attention to just one area at a time. You can even use the color-coding system to help with this.


4: Turn Off Distractions

When editing, just as with writing, distractions kill the mood. They steal your focus and scatter the pieces all over the internet. (How many tabs did you open? Five? Six?) That’s why they’re called distractions. Toss them out. Print your manuscript and head to a coffee shop or something. Leave your computer behind if you have to. This is the time to polish your writing and make it shine—and you can’t do that when you’re checking Facebook or Twitter every five minutes.


5: Take Time

This might not seem like much of a shortcut, but believe it or not, taking time initially will actually save you time later. Don’t rush through reading your story. Drink it in. Let your words fill your mind and speak to you. Study them. Question them. Quality work takes time—time that you won’t have to use later if you spend it right the first time.


And don’t just study your story. Study the craft of writing. Study different styles, techniques, and methods. Make sure you know your grammar. If you don’t know the answer to an editing question, don’t guess. Look it up. If you spend your time wisely, you’ll thank yourself when it comes time to implement the changes in your manuscript.


What are some of your favorite editing shortcuts that help YOU minimize stress? Leave a comment and share!




 Emily Tjaden is a blogger, speculative author, and freelance editor. In her spare time, she can be found with a book and a cup of tea, or out at a local coffee shop, working on a new novel idea. She is fascinated by humanity, imperfection, and the unseen. Add a fair (okay, huge) dash of bookish nerdom and you’ve pretty much got the picture. You can find Emily on her blog, Dreaming Hobbit, as well as on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



  1. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a guest blogger, Braden! I really enjoyed it. (:

  2. I’m still a ways from finishing my first draft, but I’ll keep these tips in mind! I especially like the ones about printing it up, and color coded editing. Thanks 😀

    • Those are the two that have helped me the most with focus. I absolutely love them, and I definitely recommend trying it out!

  3. Great post Emily! If I ever end up finishing a novel I’ll be sure to give it a try. 😉 I really like the color coding idea.

  4. This helps so much. I need this. I haven’t even finished my first draft, but I got my first 59 page edit back (thx so much braden)
    I’ve been freaking out and gained 6 pounds stress eating!

    • Hi, Will! I’m so glad this helped you! I hope you’ll be able to relax some after trying out some of these tips! 😉 Good luck with the rest of your writing and editing!

  5. Emily, this would have to be one of the best posts on editing I’ve ever read. I’ve finished a first and second draft, and used the “print out and colour coding” for my first edit. Then somewhere along the way, when it came to editing the second draft I became lost — this was after reducing my MS from 120,000 to 82,000 words. I’ve now finished the third draft and have further reduced the word count to 52,284.

    I’m going to use the “print and colour coding” again, but this time I’m throwing text-to-speech into the mix. The program reads for me and I go crazy with highlighters on the printout. I’ve noticed when you read something you’ve written, that your brain sees what you intended to write and doesn’t see what you actually have written — this is where beta readers can be so good — fresh eyes see what you can’t.

    The text-to-speech program I’m going to use is Natural Reader and, as the name implies, it really does have a natural sounding voice. You can have British or American male or female voices (or French or Spanish) You can slow down or speed up the reading pace. There are several different versions ranging from a free version to a fully “professional writer” version. I opted for a middle of the road version with two British speaking voices – one male and one female.

    Have to tweet this post it’s so good 😉

    • Thank you so much, Lyn! I appreciate your comments. (:

      That is so true! Hearing your story read aloud can really help to nail down what you actually want it to sound like. I’ve done this myself, but not with the use of that epic-sounding program you mentioned. I just recorded my own voice, which I suppose did the job. I am curious, however, about where I might find this Natural Reader program. It sounds incredibly helpful!

      Good luck with your final edits!

  6. I never really thought of printing out my manuscript. That’s a great idea! And color coded editing is great too. Then it will look colorful. 😛

    Thanks so much!

    • Colorful is fun. *nod* And it’s incredibly helpful. You should definitely try it!

  7. I printed my novel out when editing to enter into the One Year Novel Contest, and it was a huge deal for me. A lot of the time, I spent at my local Chick-fil-a, where I could walk to it.
    Fresh air,
    Fresh air again on the way home.
    It was really helpful. I probably went around 10 times, and spent three to four hours there each time.

    Funny enough, I actually like the look of red ink on paper… I feel like I’m getting stuff done, and it makes me feel professional and smart. (Never mind that both of those are probably not true :P) But I ended up not buying just any red pen. I bought a few Sharpie pens-, because I liked how it felt, looked, smelled, and frankly I enjoyed writing (or doodling) on my paper, sitting in a corner booth, drinking coffee and occasionally, a milkshake.
    All in all, doing that was the best time I’d ever edited a book.
    I basically agree with everything you say here. 🙂 Thanks for posting!


    • Sounds awesome, Carolyn! I’ve actually been doing some work at a coffee shop today. It’s the best. ^_^ Good luck with your editing!

Leave a Reply