Editing is not a lukewarm writing stage. Either it’s your favorite part about writing or you dread it. Personally, I sort of like this stage. If writing were pottery I would compare writing the rough draft to making the clay, I see editing as my opportunity to mold it into something recognizable.
Writing is created by so many elements, that means that editing has to happen on many levels. When you edit you will be watching for spelling, grammar, word choice, comprehension, tenses, plotting, character development, point of view, and voice. Basically, you are checking to make sure everything about your work sounds good and has a nice flow. You should be prepared to edit one piece three or more times.
I always write my initial drafts out longhand. When I am “in the mood to write” there is just something about pen and paper that completes the process for me. Through experience though I have found another benefit to my habit of having a long handed original. I have noticed that the work I have taken the time to write out first is more organized and has better quality overall. While the pieces that I type directly into the computer need much more editing to make them flow well. That’s because my work gets edited the first time around when I type the story up. As I read and type I naturally fix basic mistakes in structure, spelling and grammar. This makes a cleaner copy. Of course that doesn’t mean that you should stop typing your rough drafts if that is your habit. It is simply to say that your first edit can just involve a quick read over.
For your first time through all you should do is read the piece over and mark the basic errors that catch your eye. You’ll find spelling, typos, grammar, and the occasional sentence/paragraph structure problems. You can correct these changes as you go, but if you notice larger problems such as plot or character you don’t want to take the time to stop and try to fix them. Just mark where the problems are or where changes may need to be made and go on reading. I do this first basic type of edit as I type and again after it’s typed. This way I can catch typos and bigger problems I couldn’t see before.
Now that you’ve typed in your corrections you are going to do your second edit. You are going to need to read it over again, closely, looking for major problems. Check for consistency in point of view, voice and tense, among other things. You’ll also need to watch for the aforementioned issues such as plot and character development. If you had marked some problem areas on the first run through you will need to keep these areas in mind this time.
Watch for ideas for correcting the problems and complications that may arise from altering certain places. Think about what else will need to be removed or changed if you alter or remove the problem area. Also watch for conflict that may arise from your new idea. Once you’ve read it through and you feel confident you’ve found all the areas the rewrite will touch go ahead and start playing around with your new ideas and rewriting the troublesome sections as needed.
Once you’ve typed in those changes you’ll want to read it one more time for typos, spelling and grammar to make sure that your rewrites are smooth. If you are satisfied that you’ve solved the problem and you’ve caught all the small errors you can put the piece away for now. If you find it’s not working keep at it until you are happy, or until you are too frustrated to be effective. It happens that sometimes you get too close to your work. You will either become blind to the flaws or you will become frustrated with your inability to find a solution to the problems that you can plainly see. This is a normal reaction and comes from rereading and rewriting the same thing over and over again. Once you get like this there is no point in going on. Put the piece away for a few days, weeks or months, whatever you need to distance yourself and be able to look at it with fresh eyes. Then start editing and rewriting again. You’ll repeat stages on and two until you are happy with what you have and feel ready to send it out.