Is “Edit” Really a 4-letter Word?

What do you think of when you hear the word “edit”?

Manuscripts bleeding red ink, perhaps, coupled with the desire to weep, wail, or consume copious amounts of chocolate as you mutter dark things about the editor, critique partner, or contest judge who gave you the constructive criticism?

Or do you get excited, knowing that putting our work through an edit will make it better?

I used to be employed as a copyeditor, so can you guess which response I have?

Nope. I don’t do a happy dance. Not at first anyhow.

Here’s the four-step process I go through when I receive edits.

1. Emotional response. During this phase I often experience doubts and discouragement. This may last a few hours if the suggested changes are minor or a few days if major work is needed.

2. Adjustment period. In this step I set the comments aside and allow my feelings to bleed off while my subconscious gets to work processing the input.

3. Return to reality. At this point rational thought returns, and I’m ready to tackle the revisions. I read through them and form a plan of attack.

4. Excitement ensues. Because I enjoy editing as much as, if not more so than, writing a first draft, I have fun figuring out how to carry out the needed changes and watching my story improve. By allowing myself the adjustment period before diving in, I’m able to be more objective and make the myriad decisions required

My agent, Rachelle Gardner, addressed the importance of editing in her post, “Master the Craft of Writing.” She believes more of the editing responsibility is going to fall on writers as publishers are forced to reduce their editorial staffs and advises us to keep working on craft so we can produce quality stories readers will enjoy. She also discusses the importance of getting the best editing or proofreading we can afford.

The editor in me rejoiced when I read this post. I’ve long believed that we writers would be wise to learn everything possible about copyediting our own work, because agents and editors are more likely to be interested in manuscripts free of minor, avoidable mistakes.

I’m thankful there are many great blogs where we can do just that. Two more awesome resources are the Chicago Manual of Style, which most fiction publishers use, and the Associated Press Stylebook used by non-fiction and magazine publishers.

• • •

How do you respond to feedback from your writing partners, contest judges, etc.?

Do you enjoy the editing process, or is it something you merely endure?

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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20 Responses to Is “Edit” Really a 4-letter Word?

  1. Donna Pyle says:

    Keli, great words of wisdom! I must say that I look forward to edits, because I know my writing downfalls. I know the areas where my writing is weakest, so the more these amazing editors look over and suggest edits, the more I learn and grow over time. Sometimes the way they restructure a sentence adds so much more meaning and punch than my original one. I’m so very thankful for editors!!

  2. Keli, I look forward to your new series. This reminds me of the adage … be a good writer and a great rewriter. It is only in the editing, rewriting and the fourth or fifth drafts that I begin to get to the solid bones of my stories. Your sage advice is something I am sure will help me learn more of what I need to get better 🙂

  3. Yay! I like editing. I admit to wincing once in awhile when I get my editorial letters, not because I think the editor is wrong, but because I made such a gaffe in the first place.

    I look forward to your new series of posts. 🙂

  4. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    The friends who read my poetry and stories and songs normally don´t tell me to edit anything, they like the texts the way they are. Nor did my teachers at school…lol. But I am very critical with myself and often edit a lot because I don´t like it, because I made typing errors or because my thoughts about some parts have changed.

  5. the writ and the wrote says:

    I’m a nerd and enjoy editing. I’m editing a book for someone else and it’s like a high, knowing someone is confident enough in my skills to allow me to edit their work.

  6. Loree Huebner says:

    Great post, Keli, and I look forward to your Monday posts.

    A long time ago, I used to pout at every comment. Now, I take in every critique comment and study it. It’s so important to listen and not get your nose out of joint. I’ve learned so much by listening to someone else’s opinion on my writing. It’s made me a better writier, hands down.

  7. as a pantster, editing is a part of my writing life regularly. (too regularly, if you know what i mean….but i’ve resigned myself to my writing style with no turning back!) good thing that i DO enjoy it. i get all excited as ai read back through my manuscript….b/c brand new ideas abound each time! 🙂

    copyediting, though….not my favorite. and it’s not b/c i don’t like grammar and rules….i do. and i’m good at it (minus capitalization, in general, b/c i’m lazy). some of my biggest pet peeves revolve around grammar. but part of my reluctance to read for grammar and the like revolves around my day job. i read hundreds of progress notes every week…and what do you think i’m looking for? you got it. so i do this EVERY DAY and DO get a little tired of it.

  8. I love the editing process–like you said–it is so nice to watch my story grow stronger and read better. I look forward to your hints and teaching on editing!

  9. Lisa Jordan says:

    Keli, great post. And I look forward to your new Copyediting with Keli posts. I learned a lot about copyediting when I did them for my first novel. For the most part, I love the editing process. When I receive feedback, I weigh it against my vision for the story and see if the suggestion would make the story stronger or take away from it–except when receive feedback from my editor. I make the changes she requests because she knows more than I do what her house’s readers want.

  10. I’m sure your tips will be most helpful, Keli. I’ll definitely be paying attention. For me, editing can feel tiring at first, but then I get motivated to change my story for the better.

  11. Wendy says:

    I love the heart behind why you’ll be posting these tips. I so appreciate your desire to help other writers. It’s a gift!
    ~ Wendy

  12. I tend to follow a similar process as you do, Keli. (Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.) 🙂 I’ll admit the bigger-scale changes overwhelm me sometimes because it’s hard to know where to start. But I guess it all starts one word at a time, right?

  13. Marji Laine says:

    I don’t get too emotional with critiques. In fact they really stir me up. Not sure that will hold up for reviews when the time comes, though. That’s when it’s too late to do anything. As my friend Lynne Gentry told me, I’d rather go through the fire in a group of 6 trusted friends, that be raked over the coals in public on!

  14. I am always nervous when I send my ms to critique partners. I’m ready for constructive criticism, but it is emotional depending on what they say! Like you, after I let it steep, I’m excited to go in and improve.

    I’m looking forward to your Monday blogs! I’ll be thinking of a few questions. 🙂

  15. I enjoy the editing stage. When writing the first draft I don’t slow down long enough to catch poorly developed characters, weak scenes, or inconsistencies, so I expect to do lots of revising. I appreciate impartial beta readers’ feedback and critiques because they catch things I miss. I’m always anxious to begin editing. It’s after the fourth or fifth revision that I begin to tire of going over the same material yet again, but it’s all good if the end result is a better story.

  16. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I want want my writing to improve, so I do my best to be open to feedback. It’s the only way to improve. It’s a fun experience to see how the editing stage can change your work, too.

  17. bethkvogt says:

    Yay, Keli! As an editor, I applaud your upcoming copyediting series. As writers, we need to take responsibility for our writing–and this includes editing. Learn how to edit–at least the fundamentals of Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) that govern books and, if you’re contracted with a publisher, their in-house style guide. And if you don’t want to — then put aside the money and pay someone to do your edits for you.

  18. I endure it, though I really enjoy seeing the improvement as I go.

    Looking forward to these posts, Keli!!

  19. danicadream says:

    Keli, looking forward to the copyediting posts!

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