The Strange Process of Editing

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Over the past year of editing and publishing, I’ve realized the process has fallen into some pretty obvious patterns. The entire publishing process is wild, and on that side of things, I’ve noticed a lot of emotional patterns. (This is dramatic, guys.) But we’re not going to talk about that – maybe at a later date, that’ll be a series. 😊 But as for editing, I’ve fallen into a routine that seems to work decently for me.

Now, before we jump into that, let me just note that everyone’s methods are different. My sister, Kristina, does things a bit differently than I do, and she’s quite successful in her editing. And then there’s people like Grace A. Johnson, who write and edit at the same time like an absolute pro. I think there are hundreds of ways to edit, and I probably learn something new with every single book. This is all still a work in progress – there is likely a far more effective way to edit out there, but I haven’t discovered that way just yet. 🙂

First Round

(This is where things get wild, and bear in mind that I wrote each of these books at least two years prior to my foray into seriously editing them.)

This stage is where the entire book gets turned on its face. Honestly, this is probably more re-writing than anything. This stage includes, but is not limited to: cutting thousands of words, revamping plots, creating new plots, creating new characters, overhauling the writing style, remembering why I actually like this story, fretting over plot twists, etc.

So it’s a big deal. I’m very much a pantser (I think that’s what it’s called?) in that I don’t outline heavily when I write, so when I come back to edit, I kinda have to pick up the pieces. 😊 There’s also a lot of tightening the plot—getting rid of all those extra scenes and making sure the story makes at least a little bit of sense.

Now, this is just plowing through the book and whacking stuff out. I’m not freaking out over word choice and exact phrasing here; again, it’s more like rewriting.

Second and Third Rounds

And this is where things get … interesting.

Now that I have the general structure of the story and the writing isn’t completely horrifying, I begin going back to the very beginning and editing. This is when I start thinking about word choice and phrasing and all those lovely things. (Aka, wracking my brain for an interesting way for someone to walk across the room. Why can’t characters just walk across the room when I want them to?)

Anyway. In this stage, I try to go over each scene twice. (That accounts for the two rounds of editing.) I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but I’m always changing stuff on both rounds.

This is also the stage I also really start thinking about exact character development, romance development, theme, etc. I also start having a lot of fun tying the title into literally every single plot point. 😊 Also, I may or may not begin scrawling down character profiles and all that drama on sheets of paper, or if I’m especially organized, on Milanote. 😊 (Thanks, Saraina, for turning me onto that software!)

There are also times here that I may have to add some scenes because something doesn’t make sense, and these rounds are still pretty heavy edits.

Fourth and Fifth Rounds:

Again, this is one of those two-for-one rounds, in which I go back and reread each scene. (In general. I haven’t always done this, but it seems useful.) Again, a lot of stuff that’s similar to the earlier rounds. However, this is where I have to make sure the plots make sense.

This is hard.

It’s usually not the overall plot, but the nitty-gritties of who committed which crime, how could the villain get there, how can I explain this without a massive info dump. I’ll also try to add in lots of details to create realism, and again, just more word choice and rephrasing.

Optional Round:

This doesn’t always happen, but I like to go back and hit stuff I listed down during the prior rounds of editing. This isn’t an entire-book edit, but spot edits.

And of course, you have all sorts of long lists like exhibit A of all these problems you must fix. (Is labeled “third edits” since I wasn’t counting the first rewrite, and I wasn’t counting editing each scene twice.)

Bonus content: My amazing romance writing “Why do they like each other?” and these poor people’s character flaws and strengths. 🙂 Sorry, guys, for exposing you all.

Outside Opinions:

Now, this is the time when I have someone else read this massive mess. (Or what I hope is not so massive of a mess.) I’ve had an amazing beta reader (you know who you are), my sister, and then of course my mom (aka the Typo Queen.) Outside opinions are so helpful, even if there are like 5,000 comments to resolve. Each and every one is so useful. I don’t know what I would do without other people—I mean, I shall forever be indebted to Kristina for keeping Gabe Kelly from accidentally murdering someone.

Yeah, it was bad.

Anyway … then you can add in your beta/editor comments throughout the book. This is a highly important step, and I highly recommend. 😊

The Final Edits:

This is where you start screaming either because you really are tired of these people, or you’re so terrified you’re just shrieking. These are line edits when you hunt down those silly typos, groan about problems that are so hard to fix, and fret.

Or, if you’re wise, you surrender your book fully to the Lord and trust Him to carry you through. (The obvious best choice.)

The End!

And finally, after more unnecessary panicking, you’re off to the publishing part, which isn’t all that hard in comparison to all you’ve done. Yay!

Whew. That was a lot to talk about. How do you edit? Do you have a certain number of edits that you always do, or do different books change the way you edit? Did any of that make a lick of sense? 🙂

19 thoughts on “The Strange Process of Editing

    • One page, one word at a time. 🙂 Sometimes I’ve just thought about all the work I have to do to a book to whip it into shape, and it’s wayyy to overwhelming to even think about. 🙂 And just another place to lean on the Lord!


      • Yes, one page and one word at a time…and definitely yet another place to lean on the Lord! 😀 Yeah, I’d be overwhelmed, too, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, I feel you, Riley! It’s so hard to pin down exactly what you want, especially when you’re in the beginning stages of editing a book. But I’m cheering you on, and the Lord will be your strength! 🙂


  1. I’m still too new to editing to share my style yet, but I was happy to read about yours, Vanessa!! It’s definitely a growing process, not just for the books, but for us too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, Bethany, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my ramblings. There have to be better and more effective ways to edit out there, but it’s interesting to see how different writers approach things. And it’s such a growing process! I have so much to work on. Hopefully, I’ll look back on this post in a few years and have a way better approach to editing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ohhhh I loved this post, Vanessa!!!! It was so cool to get a look at your editing process!!! (And yay, I’m so glad Milanote has been working for you!!!) One of the hardest parts of editing for me is the plot part, so I guess what would be First Round and the Fourth and Fifth Rounds. It’s crazy how many little plot holes spring up as I write. 😂 “Aka, wracking my brain for an interesting way for someone to walk across the room.” THE STRUGGLE IS SO REAL.

    Thank you for sharing this!!! ❤ (And I cannot wait for "Untold"!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thanks, Saraina! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. (And yes, Milanote keeps me from scrawling my thoughts out on too-small pieces of paper. Plus it’s just kinda fun to play with all the squares. Thank you for introducing it to me!)

      And yes … the plot. I told Kristina one time that the worst part about publishing is that everything has to make sense. 🙂 And I can’t even deal with trying to get a character to just walk across the room. C’mon, guys, just do it!

      Aww, thank you so much! I’m so excited to share it with you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • (LOL yes, it’s very fun to play with the squares! 😂)

        Amen! You would think the hard parts would be the really dramatic scenes where someone might die but no, it’s characters walking across the room that stumps us. 😐 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. *brain explodes* HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU DO THAT?! Girl, that is INSANELY overwhelming just to READ. I am in awe. *hands you chocolate and awards for strength and endurance and survival and serious stuff like that*

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, you’re the one who’s editing a 200+K book, so I’m going to share a little of the chocolate with you. 🙂 But thank you for the chocolate. I need it! Sometime you need to share your editing secrets with me, because if you can edit a 200+K book, you are officially amazing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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