The Answer to Editing
I figured it all out
I don’t have much time because my book is due in <checks watch> fifteen days, but I had to share with you this thing I discovered. I have uncovered the secret to all editing woes. With this one simple trick you can edit your manuscript—fiction, non-fiction, memoir, whatever—with ease and calm. It’ll make your skin clearer, your taxes easier, and your friends send you better memes. Never fret about editing again.
Ok, so what you do is you write your book. (That part’s on you. I don’t have the answer for that one.) Then, when you’re done with the first draft, you go back and read it again. That part is normal, too. BUT, as you’re reading, YOU WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WROTE. You make a reverse outline. You make a list of what you actually wrote, and then compare it with your starting outline of what you intended to write (if applicable)! If you didn’t start with an outline, you will discover what you actually wrote, and in what order! This works for fiction, too, I promise.
The result is a bare bones outline. Your entries might be “intro” and “opening scene with the dog” and “first big fight.” Whatever makes sense for your story. It’s just for you, no one else, so you can use shorthand. The outline turns out organized—chapter 1, chapter 2, or part 1, or with chapter titles—however it is actually organized on the page. When you’re done, you have a visual representation of the plot, pacing, and structure of your book. It’s magic!
You might notice that chapter two is four times as long as all the others, so that one needs to be split up. You might see that there’s a HUGE gap between “first fight” and “second fight” when in your mind those things happen closer together. You might see all of your chapter titles but one begin with the main character’s name, and you can decide if you like that or not. This process is helping me SO MUCH with editing my book and I’m going to do this to every book forever and ever.
Except I know I did not come up with this idea. I am not the first person to try this or suggest this or sing its praises. I just figured it out so obviously I have to share it with you and get super excited about it and act like it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m sure some of you have heard of this before, and please leave in the comments where you heard about it. Those people might not be the originators for this plan but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s a new idea to me, not one new to the world.
And also, this might not work for you. (I think it’ll work so at least try.) It might not work for me next time!!!! This might only work for me for this book, for this draft, now that Pluto is leaving Capricorn. AND THAT IS OK. It is fine, normal, natural, and common to find something that works for you, especially in writing or other hard endeavors, and think Great! That’s settled for life. I never have to think of this or find another way to handle this ever again!. Like finding the perfect jeans and buying three pairs so you’re never without again. (Lol.) Wouldn’t that be nice? That’s not how it works though. What works for this book might only work for this book.
Don’t despair, because what you need for the next book will find you sooner or later. With each book you’ll figure out a new THING that WORKS, so eventually, you’ll have a whole arsenal of tricks and tactics to confront any writing problem and you can pull out what you need, when you need it. Book number four might benefit from a reverse outline, while two and three didn’t. You won’t know until you get there.
Yes, it is more comfortable to feel like you’ve got it all figured out forever. You don’t. I don’t. And that’s ok. No one else has it all figured out either. But it’s really good while it lasts.