Editing Question

Ok, I have a question for all you experienced authors. I’m in the middle of my first edit, have read through the manuscript from start to finish to identify any structural and flow issues, and am now going through line by line to tighten up my writing (or slash and burn as I prefer to call it).

I started out editing on a printed version of the manuscript, which I found excellent when cutting out unnecessary words, sentences or paragraphs, but clumsy when trying to amend text or expand where needed. I did this for the first two chapters and then entered the changes into Scrivener, which proved just as long winded as the original edit. I then decided to edit directly into Scrivener (which allows you to save versions of each section of your manuscript, giving you the option of rolling back the changes if you screw things up). I found this a much easier way of working, especially when expanding where needed.

Here’s the question: Am I missing something when it comes to the value of editing on paper? Does anybody else edit their electronic version of the manuscript directly?

OK, it was two questions.

If it’s just a case of whatever works for you, then great, but as I’m still at an early stage, I’d really appreciate any advice on this.

Many thanks in advance for your replies!


11 thoughts on “Editing Question

  1. Carrie Rubin

    Prior to its publication, I did all my novel’s editing electronically. No printed version. This worked fine for me, but the one thing I’ll do differently next time is do the backwards line edit (read from the end of the chapter up, sentence by sentence). Painful, I know, but despite my final line edit as well as my editor’s pass through and a senior editor’s pass through, a typo still snuck by us. And now it’s out there forever…

    Good luck!

    1. dylanhearn Post author

      Thanks Carrie. How did you get on with just an electronic version for the first read through? That was one area that I really appreciated the printed version.

      1. Carrie Rubin

        Oh, I printed it out several years ago when I first finished it (for myself and others to read), but I didn’t do so after I found my publisher and did the major edits. I’m not sure I really even thought about it. At that point, I’d read through the dang manuscript so many times I almost had it memorized. 😉 But I know most writers like to print it out and edit that way, and I probably will with my next one.

        I like that Scrivener allows you to save the prior drafts so you can go back to a previous one if you want.

  2. cthomashuber

    Hey Dylan…

    For me, it depends on what stage of rewrite. I work like you do… heavy lifting on computer, and then edits on paper – dialogue, tightening and improving… but one thing that does work for me is this: when I am still in computer-edit mode, I email the file to myself and read the work on Docs to Go, an iPhone app. When I do this, it seems in my head that I am reading a published work, and this being the case, it makes all the mistakes and areas to improve stand out!

  3. change it up editing

    I’ve done both countless times. I find that no matter how careful I am, things just look different when they are printed out, so as an author, I start on screen and print out when I think I’ve done all I can. Of course I always find more.

    1. dylanhearn Post author

      Thanks Candace. I found printing out the first draft was great to work through big picture issues (flow, structure) but useless when making amendments; I switched to screen after about 30 pages.

      The good news is that I’m 400 pages down, 80 to go (plus complete re-writes of three scenes – show don’t tell!)

  4. timflanaganauthor

    Hi Dylan – I write my whole MS in the computer, but prefer to go through and edit when it is complete, on a printed version with a red pen! Any alterations from proof readers I automatically do on the computer, but there is definitely something satisfying about having a pile of paper to read through with a superior pen to strike its magic across the page. Stephen King says you should cut at least 10% of your MS, but I often find I end up adding 10% overall – mainly because I see flaws in the structure or back story, which need to be added. Afterall, you ADD polish to a car to make it shinier, not take it AWAY.

    1. dylanhearn Post author

      Hi Tim. I think the mistake I made was to print off too early. I’m now finalising my second draft, and it would have been impossible to make all alterations directly on a printed manuscript (well, not impossible, I’m sure author’s have successfully used this method for hundreds of years.) I don’t regret printing the first draft off, though. As it is my first novel, having the physical reality of what I created, in my hands, felt wonderful. It was a physical confirmation that I was a writer (not that I can write, hopefully that will come later.) I’ve managed to know my first draft down from 110,000 words to 93,000, but I still have 4 scenes to write, so I’ll be pushed to make the 10% under. I agree with analogy of adding polish to a car. I have so many things I want to sprinkle through my manuscript; I think it will be hard to stop.

    2. dylanhearn Post author

      Hi Tim, I’m so sorry I haven’t replied. Your post got stuck in purgatory (otherwise known as pending) and I’ve only just noticed.
      I’ve just finished my first major rounds of editing and I’ve found I cut around 15% and added 5%, so I did a bit of both. I agree, though, that it’s so much fun just adding in small touches that add depth to the story.
      Thanks for dropping by.


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