How Do I Edit Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Last week I received the edits and revisions for my second novel, Rescuing Lacey, due out later this month. Woohoo! Like with my first manuscript for The Promise of Change, I quickly scrolled through the redlined document to get a flavor for what I had ahead of me. There were more revisions with Rescuing Lacey than with my previous one, so I knew I had to devise a plan of attack.

There were the expected garden-variety grammar, punctuation, and typos, as well as some word usage corrections. For some reason I tend to use British forms of words as opposed to American — towards (British) versus toward (American), backwards (British) versus backward (American), and alright (British) versus all right (American).  I’m clearly spending too much time in England.

Other minor revisions included italicizing foreign words and internal thoughts and overuse of words like walking, looking, turning, and pulling.

Major revisions included suggesting I move sections of narrative to later scenes and convert it to dialogue between the hero and the heroine and revising the stray “authorial POV” to a character’s POV.  I also tend to head hop between my hero and heroine, a la Nora Roberts, but clearly she manages this more deftly than I do. ( :

As a lawyer, editing documents is part and parcel of the work I do. Let’s just say Word’s Track Changes feature and I go way back. And as I would with any contract I review, I used the following strategy.

Step 1 – I worked through the manuscript from beginning to end accepting the punctuation, grammar, typo corrections, and word usage issues (because, let’s face it, my editor was right), as well as making any formatting corrections. This way I de-cluttered the document making it easier to read when I moved on to the major revisions.

Step 2 – Since I had large sections of narrative to move and I needed to find the perfect place in the story to insert them, I printed the manuscript. I then cut the sections of narrative to be moved and pasted them into a separate document, printing that as well. Let’s call that my Revisions Document. Next, and this is important, I grabbed a large glass of iced tea. Because we all know revising is thirsty work. Then I settled into a comfy chair with my redlined manuscript, my Revisions Document, my iced tea, and my magic red editing pen. It’s not really magic, but I had you going there for a second. Admit it.

I began re-reading the manuscript and marking my POV revisions. When I came to a section in the manuscript that I needed to move, I made a note on the Revisions Document about what later scene it might fit in. I followed this pattern, making my POV corrections, until I came to the scene that would serve as the new home for the narrative-turned-dialogue and made a note.

Step 3 – After finishing the manuscript review, I pulled up a chair at the computer, taking another glass of iced tea with me of course, and opened both the redlined, marked-up manuscript and the Revisions Document. I made my POV corrections, tracking the changes. When I came to a scene that would best welcome the deleted sections, I copied the section from my Revisions Document and pasted it into the scene, then revised it accordingly (i.e. changing it to dialogue, changing third person pronouns to first person, etc.). On the Revisions Document, I highlighted the text, thus ensuring that when I was finished I hadn’t forgotten any sections.

Step 4 – After all the major revisions were completed, I used Word’s Find feature and searched for overused words and replaced many of them with appropriate alternatives using Word’s Thesaurus feature, again, making sure my Track Changes feature was on.

Step 5 – I saved my revisions, renaming the document to prevent confusion, and sent it off to my editor with a sense of accomplishment. I firmly believe my editors suggested revisions will make for a stronger, more compelling story.

Step 6 – I celebrated with a glass of wine!

How do you edit? What is you plan of attack? We’re all dying to know.


About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
This entry was posted in According to Rebecca and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How Do I Edit Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

  1. My plan is always the same. I don’t use auto-critter or a thesaurus because I feel it hampers my style and makes me doubt myself; instead, I reread everything I write about a hundred times, attempting to constantly make it stronger. I “edit as I go.” Then when I get the MS completed, i read it over start to finish several times before I submit. I like to read silently and aloud as I catch different things each time. This strategy works well as I’ve only had content edits in one of my three published novels and none in the one I’m editing now. I tend to accept all edits my editor suggests because, well, she’s the boss. I do drink red wine throughout this process… 🙂

  2. Katy Lee says:

    I trust me editors to know what they are talking about. They know how to make my work shine. Having said that, I still stay true to myself and my writing, and if there is a change that I don’t agree with, I won’t just say no, but I will try to come at it another way that will keep the story true and the editor happy.

    • Thanks for visiting, Katy. I agree. You need to stay true to your writing and to yourself. And picking your battles is good advice in that department. Don’t quibble over the comma, but if something changes the tenor of your style, a discussion is definitely in order.

  3. The wine part sounds like a winner.

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I’m relieved to read this and find I’m not the only one that uses “Alright” vs. “All right” … Perhaps I was a Brit in a past life. When I got my edits from SMP I went through them, and, like you, accepted the grammar and punctuation. I then started at the beginning and went through it line by line and really thought about the suggested changes. Some I accepted, others I didn’t. But when I didn’t I placed a “Comment” box on the margin telling my editor why I thought that particular phrase needed to stay. Like Katy, I trust my editor knows how to make my work shine. And I agree with Susan … the wine part sounds like a winner.

    • Hi Gerri. Thanks for sharing. I blame it on my British ancestry and my frequent visits. ( :
      I just received my second round edits. I’ll be printing the manuscript once more, and like you, going through it line by line with a fine tooth comb. I want it so highly polished I can see my reflection in it.

  5. jannashay says:

    Your edits and revisions sound just like mine. I agree with everyone, editors definitely help make our manuscripts shine.
    I drink a couple pots of coffee while editing because, as you stated, it’s thirsty work. Thank goodness for editors, for where would we be without them?
    Great post. Good luck with the second round.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s