Here I go again: How I edit my stories

Whenever I manage to finish writing a story, I get to rediscover that writing the book was the easy part. Now I’m about to journey through the not-so-great joys of editing.

To alleviate this I watch a lot of youtube videos on the subject. There are quite a few people who go through the different types of editing. But whenever I edit, it’s a free-for-all. The line edits are forced to be with the proofreading and don’t get me started on the structural editing. It’s all one big party where I’m ripping out my fingernails because I hate parties.

My word documents all end up either covered in red (at least first to fourth drafts) or minimally wounded by the time I’m ready for it be self-published (aka getting sick of it). As revisions go on it does get quicker/easier, both because I’m getting better at killing my darlings and increasingly more confident in my editing abilities.

To people out there who think that editing is something daunting like climbing a mountain when you’ve never done such a thing, then do not fret. You don’t experience, you just need persistence. Afterall you just finished writing a manuscript. That’s something a lot of people never manage to do. Hooray!

 

When should you ditch a story?

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To date, all the stories I wrote for my uni assignments have remained untouched on my USB since graduation. It’s been around five years now and I know that I might never go back to them. And that’s ok. There are a quite a few reasons why I’m probably not going to bother with them and they are:

  • I don’t like them (I wrote them to criteria guidelines and not entertainment).
  • There are other stories I like more or think are worthwhile writing.
  • I know they are bad (Bad, being plot).

Some time ago I opened a short 2,500 word story and tried to see if I could make it worthy of self-publishing. It turned out that my first ever story I wrote for uni was pretty effing terrible. No wonder I barely passed that class. I could make the sentence structure better, but I couldn’t get over the plot holes and it was cliched as hell. Give me an award for reaching the cringe-worthy level of over 9000!

I also have other stories that are not from uni that are currently dormant because I’ve been neglecting them for a variety of reasons;

  • They’ve got a good base, but need more attention and ideas added.
  • More recent stories are taking up my spare time and my growth as a writer has improved their first draft quality to the point of encouragement.
  • Something about it just doesn’t seem right and I can’t quite put my finger on it (Trust your gut guys and move onto something else in the meantime).

What I was interested in a few years ago has changed and it will probably change again. One of the biggest things I can say to other people would be if you think something is not right about your story then you’re on to something. Notice I said not right instead of wrong? That’s because there are more than one way to tell a story or write a novel.

When you come to a place like this, it is best that you take a break of however long you think you might need for you to wrap your head around it. Be it a few hours to a few weeks. I like to think of my stories as I’m working behind the bar at work. It gives me time to plan what I think are the best routes to take. Personality wise, I’m more of a ‘take my time to plan’ instead of rush ahead because I’ve learnt that it is how I make mistakes.

That being said, some stories are just bad through and through. Even as a child I was picking up on things in books that disrupted the entire reading experience. Whether it be a single sentence of being preached to or a single word that is the wrong tense (These were from traditionally published books too). You could have a decent story, but a book’s sense of verisimilitude is just as important. And this could be the thing that doesn’t make it worthwhile and you have to ask yourself, Should I go back and try to fix or just ditch? And the answer is yours and what you think is best for you.