The Crime Writers’ Association

The Art of Editing by John Dean

I have always said, somewhat glibly, that I dislike writing and love rewriting. There is an awful lot of truth in the statement and it comes home particularly when I have completed the first draft of a novel.

I do derive some satisfaction from the initial writing process but what I really enjoy is the editing, the reworking, going through every page, every line, every word, to make sure that the manuscript I submit to my publisher is as near to perfection as it can be. It won’t be perfect, no manuscript ever is, but the writer must strive to ensure that it is as good as they can make it.

When the publisher sees it, they will make their own comments, suggest their own improvements. It’s the value of a different person reading your work and seeing it as the reader will.

What does preparing your final manuscript look like? Well, partly it’s the big stuff – does the plot work, are there missing plotlines, does everything make sense? Is the pace right? Has the reader got the information they need to understand the story?

But it’s also the little things – examining every word and asking if it is doing its job. Is it needed, is it a case of overwriting to keep the word count up, is it the right word, would a different one be better? Are the spellings right, is the grammar clunky?

In my case, the editing process means making well over a thousand changes to the first draft of a novel, everything from removing sections and writing new ones to taking out single words.

However, if you do it properly, it will reward the effort. I believe that the editing process is crucial, it’s where everything comes together. It is akin to polishing a piece of silver to give it the right lustre. Get it right and, hopefully, your manuscript will shine.

You can find out more about John on his Author Page here.

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