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A Writing Journey

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Part 7:
The Never-Ending Edits

Drafting and revising a book takes a lot of time, but it's only half of the process. Once the story is finally in shape, it is time to turn your attention to the prose.

While the first stages of writing a book are about getting the ideas right, editing is all about getting the words right. Instead of looking at plot, pacing, character development, or world building, editing focuses on things like sentence structure and word choice. This is the time to remove redundant writing, smooth out awkward and stilted wording, pay attention to grammar, syntax, and flow, and so on.

I usually start by printing a copy of the story and reading through it, marking areas that need improvement and making notes to myself. I then make edits to my digital copy using these notes. After that, I go over the entire story a few more times, making changes as I go. During this phase, I tend to skip back and forth a lot, as I often find it necessary to take a break from certain passages. This allows me to approach problem paragraphs with fresh eyes later on, or to see if the changes I made previously are satisfactory.

In addition to polishing the prose by focusing on word choice and sentence structure, I spend a lot of my editing time reducing the word count and removing redundant writing. I have a tendency to overwrite, meaning I use far more words than necessary to get my point across. I prefer to convey ideas and information in multiple ways when I'm writing, so that during editing, I can pick and choose the strongest lines.

This helps me write stronger dialogue and descriptions, but it also means I have to spend a lot of time cutting out repetitive sentences and paragraphs. I can get stuck for what feels like an eternity on a single paragraph, trying to cherry pick the best words, sentence structures, and phrases, and then somehow put them together in a way that sounds natural. This can be a challenging task, (not to mention frustrating!), and is the biggest reason that editing takes me so long to complete.

When I am finally nearing the end of this process, I read the novel out loud at least once, as this is the best way to test the prose. It allows you to catch things you would otherwise miss, and gives you a better sense of flow and rhythm than reading in your head does. Even when I am doing normal edits, I will often pause to read passages out loud to test the changes I've made.

And when does this stage end, you ask? Well, I call it the never-ending edits for a reason. The trouble with editing is that you're never really "done", because the prose could always be improved in some way. There are always words that could be cut, descriptions that could be stronger, sentences that could sound smoother. I could spend a literal eternity going over the same passage and still feel it could be better.

But finally, I have to accept my story as it is and move on. Otherwise, I'd end up stuck fixating on things that don't really matter as I strive endlessly for an unattainable level of perfection!

The line between "revisions", "editing" and "proofreading" gets pretty fuzzy, and there is inevitably some overlap between editing and writing a book. I made countless changes to the wording of When Shadows Fall during the drafting and revision stages, however, the prose still needed plenty of work after that.

I went through the story a few times myself, and then hired a professional editor to take a look at it. My editor alerted me to some of my bad writing habits, pointed out errors in my use of punctuation, and polished the prose with a number of simple edits. While I was pleased with the improvement this made, I still felt the writing needed more attention. I decided to read through the story out loud after applying her suggestions, and made several additional changes as I went.

A part of me wanted to go over it one more time after this, but thankfully, I recognized I was getting too fixated on being 'perfect'. So I forced myself to pass the book along to my proofreaders, initiating the final stage in finishing the book!

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