Three Stages of Editing

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

If you’ve completed a draft of a written work, you’ve experienced the first stage of editing. The first pass removes the obvious errors (which are easy to catch) and makes the text flow better. The second stage of editing is the meat of the job, where you’re going to work to make the text more readable, refine details such as the dialogue, and tighten the prose. After that, you’re left with your first draft, which is ready for your second stage of editing.

If your writing is not very good, know that the hardest part of the writing process is simply getting the words on the page.

Like they say in the movie business, “fix it in post,” meaning fix it in post-production. You can’t revise something that doesn’t exist. This list will get you thinking about what to do.

These editing stages are necessary in order to ensure that the written work is appropriate for its target audience.

  1. Macro edits: you’re going to be doing some (or a lot of) rewriting and making big picture changes in plot, character arcs, etc. Sometimes you’ll take a thread and pull it in a completely different direction. That’s part of the process! But does it serve the overall manuscript? That’s something to consider.
  2. Line edits: here you’re going to think about medium-level issues such as repetition of phrases, accuracy, and so on. If your character(s) think a certain way about making pizza, but somehow further along in the story, you completely change the rules, you’re going to have to think about changing it one way or another.
  3. Copy edits: nitpicking for small details, like punctuation, spelling, and grammar. I would say proofreading falls under this category. You’re feeling pretty good about the content but you need a laser-sharp focus because how many times have you read something with misspelled words or poor grammar? Doesn’t it take you out of the enjoyment of the story?

This is a simplified look at the process, of course. Don’t know where to start? Look at simplifying the content, switching the wordy parts for short, simple sentences. You may want to consider if you’re using overly flowery or verbose language that keeps the audience out of the loop. If you establish a rule in the world of your story, stick to it. Don’t change it, otherwise, you lose your reader. If you feel fairly confident, you can begin adding things to your writing too.

In conclusion, these stages are not fixed and can overlap and vary in size and length. You can do each of these three stages of editing on your own or with a friend or a professional editor. Depending on what you’re writing and how you’re editing, you may want to focus on one stage rather than another. Keep in mind that you’re never done editing and you can always go back and edit more.

A good editor can be a priceless asset to your creative process. It’s a service that I offer here through Writeropolis Industries. Let’s talk!

I’ll tell you why revision is the best part of writing in your complimentary 15-minute consultation.

Guilliean Pacheco, your friendly neighborhood creativity concierge

Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of Filipino heritage and the host of the City of Writers podcast. Her work has appeared in TechTarget, Nevada Humanities, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land. Follow her on Twitter.

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