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.