Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Editing

I used to be obsessed with Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision (which is... probably a sentence you don't see every day) and I still think her advice is extremely helpful, but I've come to realize that her process is an ideal for me, not a reality. I'll always aspire to revise a manuscript in one-pass, and I'll never be able to do it. But that's okay, because sometimes what I need most is time to walk away and come back with fresh eyes.

In Stephen King's memoir/advice book On Writing, he recommends allowing yourself a fast and furious first draft without worrying about being perfect (which might scare you into stopping). He also recommends putting the story away for at least eight weeks when you're done. This gives you more objectivity when you pick up the manuscript again, and helps lessen your attachment to things that don't really belong.

After the time off (preferably working on something brand new), you won't feel the pain of editing things down, you'll only see the better shape of what it can become. I've nixed "clever" lines, superfluous scenes and other fillers for the sake of narrative clarity and streamlining. It's taken longer than one pass, but I'm really happy with the results.

Random Squee: Lots of episodics at work today, which is fun. Most shows are well into filming the new season.


  1. I'm totally on board with the S King advice.

    I can't imagine trying to edit down a book--or even a magazine piece--in one pass. I go over and over and over them. The 8 weeks away is great advice, though. (Hard to do on a mag piece. Haha.)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Dave! Very cool to hear about your process. I often re-read portions of "On Writing" when I feel stuck.