I spend 0 to 4 hours a day self-editing. This task is necessary because my English skills are not the best, I often change my mind and I am an uncoordinated perfectionist. Not the best combination. However, I see the improvements and my later works require a lot less editing.
After thinking about my process, I determined that I have a 1:20 ratio of writing to editing. I thought it would be interesting to take a high-level view of my process.
When I write, I work in 1-2 hour stretches. A first draft takes 3-6 months depending on a lot of factors. I begin each writing session by starting three pages back from where I ended. As I read over these pages, I edit the existing work and then start writing where I left off. I do this to get into the mood, flow, characters and plot. Of the total editing effort, this preview-edit changes the document by approximately 5%.
While writing, I often have inspirations and make changes. 80% of the changes occur at this stage. This included adding chapters, rearranged large sections and making character modifications. However, this effort does not meet the definition of editing; I consider it to be writing.
After I have finished my first draft, I do my first full self-edit. My primary goal is to improve the flow, check my logic, and locate significant issues. This first pass is brutal, and it takes at least a month. I estimate this represents 15% of editing changes.
After the first pass, I then edit with specific goals in mind. One pass improves the descriptions; another fixes dialog, and another addresses my known writing “ticks.” This covers 5% of self-edited changes. When I feel comfortable, I do a comprehensive look at each line individually. This results in another 5% and takes about a month. I then do a Grammarly and Prowriting Aid pass. While each only takes a few hours, they address at least 5% of the changes.
I then print a copy for my beta read (my mother) followed by a cleanup edit. This is a big step and results in 5-10% of the changes. I estimate 30% of significant mistakes are caught at this stage. I then do the last pass, with Grammarly and Prowriting Aid.
When I am confident, I have my work reviewed by a professional editor, and then I check their changes. This represents 15-20% of the edited changes. I estimate this effort locates 40% of the major mistakes. I then send my work to a copy editor who checks each line for issues. I estimate this finds 10% of the problems and changes the document by 2%. After reviewing their work, I do a final Grammarly and Prowriting Aid pass, followed by a quick pass. This represents 0.5% of the changes, but it catches the last minor issues. Of course, I have to make one or more final-final pass because I am a control freak.
While writing, my changes add 15-20% to the length, and my beta read adds 1-2%. Each self-editing pass reduces the length by 1% because of condensed descriptions and eliminating useless sentences. The eventual result is at least 20% shorter than the first draft.
I still find self-editing fun because I get to relive the story and meet the characters again. Yet, this effort consumes a lot of time. However, I see the improvement after each pass, and that feels rewarding.
Is it worth it? I like to think practice makes perfect, and self-editing is the ultimate form of practice.
You’re the best -Bill
October 07, 2020
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