All the Little Things: Editing A Manuscript

If you took a survey of authors, I suspect 99% of them would say editing is their least favorite part of the writing process. I’m not exception. But it has to be done. I’m currently in the thick of editing Gabriel’s Trumpet. It’s my second novel (or at least long novella) length project. But I’m beginning to get a handle of my editing “process.

First and foremost, I don’t edit for everything at once. Obviously, that would be the most efficient way to do things. I’m just not up to it. If I looked for everything, I’d end up not catching anything. So, I break my editing into focused passes. The typical breakdown goes something like this:

Round 1 & 2

Checking for narrative continuity, smooth transition between scenes, and anything that just plain doesn’t make sense.

Round 3 & 4

One of my biggest issues with editing is passive voice. For some reason, I find passive voice much more pleasing than the rest of the world. So, typically, I do two editing passes just to get my use of passive voice down to an acceptable level.  Because the “Find” feature lets me pick up words like was and were regardless of whether it’s passive or not, it’s also an opportunity to switch out being verbs for other, more interesting and uncommon verbs.

Round 5 & 6

After that, it’s time for comma culling. I am also quite comma happy … a trait I will lay in the feet of ten+ years of speechwriting – where it’s common to insert a comma anywhere you want a speaker to pause or even just breathe.  So, there’s a lot of comma culling as well.

Round 7 (and, if necessary, 8, 9, etc.)

I finally move on to the other punctuation, grammar, and generic errors typically associated with editing. A special variation on this in Gabriel’s Trumpet, with its extensive use of historical figures, was fact checking spelling and biographical information.

So, that seems to be my process. I’d interested to hear how others handle this most unloved of tasks.