Edit for Structure and Content First

Too often, writers start their editing by polishing up every sentence – and then end up cutting out huge chunks of their material later. It’s much more efficient to do your big picture editing first: that means looking for:

  • Chapters or sections that need to be cut out – perhaps they’re too advanced for the piece, or they’re a tangent to the main point
  • Missing information that you need to add in, like a whole new section or chapter
  • Scenes or sections that need to be radically revised

Major cuts, additions and rewrites need to happen before you start digging down into the individual sentences and words.

I think this advice works for most genres of books.  In fact, between the 1st and 2nd drafts of the Fates project, I ended up taking out nearly 20,000 words and an entire side plot line (that went to a exotic location, but a boring plot place).  For my final draft, I’m aware that I will be doing the same again for the ending.  However, I’m not sure that’s where I would like to start the editing process.  By editing in a linear way, I get to where I’m going with my characters.  Missing scenes become more apparent when I am in the plot, rather than seeing the big picture.  Additionally, I am notoriously terrible for transitions – so I really do need at least a few times looking at each sentence to make a coherent story!

Finally, for the current book I’m editing, there is no one storyline, so it doesn’t particularly make sense to edit with above.

What about you?  What’s your preferred method for editing structure and content?

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