One of the questions I get asked the most is what my editing process is like. I’m always tempted to be brutally honest and say, “I have no idea.” <— That’s only a little bit of the truth. Really, I do have a skeleton. But stories are like babies and every single one is different.
To give you a glimpse into editing, here’s the skeleton of my process.
My Editing Process
- ALPHA READING. This is a new one for me. Alpha reading involves one other person that has much of the same beliefs in story structure and writing. I send my story in snippets to Stephan, my alpha reader, as I finish the sections. It’s very much in-your-face editing. Each section is about 8-10,000 words (about 15-20 pages). Stephan goes through with a critical eye and points out weaknesses, inconsistencies, and issues with world building. I change the story as he gives me feedback, which means it’s constantly changing.
- OVERHAUL (OH) #1. Once Stephan returns the final segment, I go back through the story again. I add layers. Correct details that changed, add more world building, and cut out lots of words.
- BETA READING. After OH #1, I send it to 3-4 trusted beta readers who are authors do the same as Stephan, only with the entire story in one chunk. I quiz them (sometimes in person) on their opinions on characters, character development, pacing, etc. This is critical (but not mean) advice.
- OVERHAUL #2. I take all their suggestions, remap how to improve my story, and go back through with more world building, more layers, more conflict.
- DEVELOPMENT EDIT. This is the beginning of my professional edits. I send the manuscript (MS) over to Catherine at Quill Pen Editorial. She reads through it twice, makes comments, writes up a big long summary on all the things that work and mostly things that don’t so I can make it better. Which is my main goal.
- OVERHAUL #3. Yep. You guessed it. More layers. More worldbuilding. More writing. More cutting. Sometimes I have to go back through a couple of times.
- LINE EDITS. I send the MS back to Catherine once I’m convinced everything is just where I want it and I won’t want to change any scenes or big parts of the narrative. She combs through it with her eagle eye and rearranges sentences if needed, makes the words flow better, cuts out unneeded words, and just makes it pretty. This is the hardest edit and the longest. I plan for about 2-3 months.
- OVERHAUL #4. This isn’t as bad, as I’m mostly accepting/rejecting Catherine’s suggestions, then going back through—yet again—to make the manuscript perfect.
- COPY EDITING. This goes to Stephanie, who reads through the story with an even finer tooth comb to check for errors and mistakes. Sometimes I will have yet another editor do copy edits after I go through Stephanie’s fixes.
- OVERHAUL #5. This is where I (and other people that I trust) go through a final run of the manuscript to find any typos, errors, mistakes, or forgotten chapters. (Yeah . . . that’s happened.)
The whole editing process takes, on average, about 4-6 months once I start with professional editing services. Alpha/beta reading stages often are the longest and can be as long as a year or more.
Keep in mind, this process is so different for every story. About every fourth novel I write, I really struggle with it. Whether it’s world building and timeline (Mildred’s Resistance) or story structure and theme (I Am Girl Power). It’s okay—I always come out stronger as a writer. But inevitably, it requires more edits. MR needed 2-3 developmental edits. IAGP needed 4.
But you know what? The overhauls and rewriting are the funnest part for me. There’s something thrilling about finding that exact, perfect word, and working with someone else to make my story and my talent better.
It’s why I love writing.