Writing Advice: Re-read to Edit


One of my resolutions for the new year is to edit the novel I’m currently writing. I started this novel back in November for National Novel Writing Month and, thanks to another resolution regarding writing every day, I’ve been working on it all month so far. I still have a lot more to write, but when I finish it I want to commit to editing the manuscript and polishing up the story. As such, I’ve been reading about editing and have been seeking out advice on what to do first and how to approach the task. As per usual, this search for information has led me to Chuck Wendig. Wendig has a post on his blog entitled, “25 Steps to Edit the Unmerciful Suck Out of Your Story.”

Steps one through three on the list have to do with stepping away from your work, and then letting other people read it. I’m going to skip those for now because a) I’ve written here before about putting distance between you and your work, and b) letting other people read what I’ve written is not something I’m able to do right now. If you can, dispense your work to some beta readers, my dear blog readers! If not, that would bring us to step 4, which Chuck has helpfully labeled The Re-Read. Chuck says:

You need to re-read your book. It’s time. Sit down with it. Print it out and plop it in your lap. Or smear it onto your iPad or computer monitor. Whatever it takes: just re-read that sonofabitch. Do this quickly. You’re not reading for pleasure…the object behind reading it swiftly is to see the entire picture and that often necessitates burning through it like a garbage fire.

Just reading this bit of advice makes me feel apprehensive about the actual re-reading. For one thing, I don’t know when I’m going to find the time to do this. I have a lot of stuff that I’m currently reading, so I know this is going to cut into my other leisure reading. But I do find what Chuck says to be very interesting. If I hadn’t read this, I would not have thought to read quickly through the manuscript. I would have thought I was looking for little bits and bobs that need to be changed. But what he says here is true — it’s good to read quickly so you see the big picture. It’s so difficult to see the big picture when you’re actually in the midst of writing.

If you’re at that point in your writing project where you’re getting ready to edit, check out Chuck’s post and then prepare for the re-read. I’ll be doing this re-read in the next two months or so, if everything goes according to schedule. I wish you the time, energy, and courage to go back and read what you have written. Happy writing & editing!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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