Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Intro and Some Ground Rules

Does the word edit make you shudder like a mom with a pet snake on the loose? Or does the process of moving words around excite you?

It seems like most writers fall into one of two camps: We're either creators or we're editors.

I'll admit I've got a little bit of both in me. But when I'm creating, I usually have to smack my internal editor back into hiding. It's always itching to come out and spruce up the drivel I've created.

Like any good writer, I started out my first self-editing venture using the awesome book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I opened it up and went to the end of each chapter, using the questions to guide me through my edits.

The problem with this approach was that I kept learning new things on blogs, in books, and in classes that I wanted to add to the list. My solution? Create my own self-editing checklist. Over the next several posts, I'll share with you my 4-page checklist, piece by piece.
First, a couple ground rules.

1) This checklist gets down to the nitty-gritty details of your manuscript. Before you apply these points, I suggest you give your work a read-through and make sure you've hammered as much of your plot and characterization as possible.

2) I don't claim to be the originator of the content I'll be sharing with you. I want to give credit where credit is due. And I'll also urge you to follow up on the resources I share to get the full reasoning behind the points I mention. In fact, I'll purposely keep some things more generic for copyrighted materials so I don't get sued. :) There are some amazing teachers out there who can provide more a-ha moments than I can, and they deserve the money behind their price tags.

With all that said, here's your homework for the next two weeks. What? Did I just say homework? Okay, okay. It's homework if you choose to accept it.

If you have a completed draft that needs self-editing, read through it with an eye solely for the story. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, make sure you're working with a story that doesn't require complete rewrites. Of course, sometimes self-editing reveals an issue that requires rewrites...That's okay. But our goal is to work with a solid story that's ready for a micro edit.

Got it? Okay. Go!

Where do you put yourself on the creator/editor spectrum? How do you currently approach the self-editing process?

Come back in two weeks for the first official piece of the self-editing checklist!

*Camp photo from
**Checklist photo by Rawich /


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Sarah! You teaser, you! I am in need of editing help and have been looking forward to your series. I guess I better read through my ms this next two weeks...Spring Break is next week and I will have the TIME! Woohoo! I'm looking forward to your series!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Complete confession: It's near impossible for me to read a MS for story alone. I'm such a stickler I end up ticking off so many things as I go. I must learn this!
~ Wendy

Mary Vee Writer said...

OK, I'll do it. :)

Casey said...

I'm one of those writers like while creating my internal editor wants to shout all kinds of suggestions and then when it comes to edit, it is gone on siesta.

Let me tell ya.

But I'm working on editing right now curtesy of Margie Lawson school of hard work, so I'll have some of that homework down. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

I look forward to your upcoming posts, Sarah, and getting a peek at your editing checklist.

I enjoy editing almost as much as creating a first draft. In fact, I have to bind and gag my Internal Editor while writing that draft. Once it's completed, though, she's free to come out and play. And she does, romping through my manuscript with her magnifying glass in hand and a sincere desire to make my story the best it can be in her heart.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I am one of those split-personality types: equal parts editor and writer. Professionally, I wear both hats (actually, I'm not crazy about wearing hats at all!) I tend to write, edit, write, edit--and that process works well for me. NaNoWriMo nearly killed me because I silenced my internal editor for 30 days and refused to push the backspace key.

Christine Long said...

I think I'm a bit of both. The problem is that I tend to over think each piece and become frustrated. Since I'm trying to learn all I can to make my work the best it can be, I sometimes get information overload. I try to apply everything at once which ends up making my story look like it's been through a blender.

I will start with the homework and read through my book for storyline alone. At least I'll give it my best effort to stick to just that.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hey all! So sorry for the late appearance. Would you believe this is the first time I sat on my couch w/ laptop in hand all day? I know...It's a record. I don't have time to respond to your comments individually, but know that I loved reading them and can't wait to walk through the checklist with you! :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I'm one of those people who intentionally lets my internal editor loose on the first draft in hopes that will get me off the hook with some major editing further on. I'm more the creator type, obviously. But I LOVE what editing can do for a manuscript--there's nothing better than a polished story. I look forward to reading more of your tips!

Pepper said...

Great post, Sarah.
Can't WAIT to glean from your research and knowledge.
You're such a great writer.

Pepper said...

Oh, and Sarah, I'm like you. A little of both. I try to force myself to finish a manuscript, even with the internal editor scratching at the back of my thoughts.