creative writing

My Editing Process Part 1 (template included!)

Hello everyone!

Editing seems like a daunting task, to take an entire novel that is 80 to 100K words and (somehow) make it better. Editing also seems endless: when do you ever stop?! There seems to always be ways to make improvements on a manuscript. A few years back when I was editing an old novel (which shall never see the light of day XD,) I wrote four drafts, and after that I still wasn’t convinced that the manuscript is at its best. Now, years later, I can finally say that I’ve found an editing process that works for me. I am proud of my system so I want to share it with you guys! I also want to hear (from the writers out there) YOUR approach to editing!

Disclaimer: This is not the BEST approach to editing. I don’t know if there is a best approach at all! This is just the approach that works for me, however everyone is different. Feel free to take from it what you like and adapt it to your own editing process.

Disclaimer 2: I am not a published writer. I am just someone who loves writing and I work hard to improve my craft everyday. Take my tips with a grain of salt!

Step 1: Take a break!!

This step is so, so important. The reason is that when we’ve just finished writing a manuscript, we know it like the back of our hand: we are in love with the stories, the characters, and world. At the magical moment when we type the final line and compile the manuscript, and it becomes one really totally extremely AWESOME document, we don’t WANT to make any changes to it.

And guess what? Editing requires changes. Sometimes BIG changes. To be able to make big changes, we need to be in a mindset to let things go. And that means taking a break.

And also, after writing a novel, WE DESERVE A BREAK OKAY?!

Step 2: Recruit Beta-Readers and Critique Partners!

First of all, what are beta-readers and critique partners? I’ve been using these words interchangeably on this blog but there is a difference!

Beta-readers are readers. They love reading and will make broad and general comments about your manuscript. On the other hand, critique partners are writers. They will provide in-depth critiques about your manuscript, from character motivations, pacing, even spelling and grammar, depends on what you ask for.

From my experience, it’s great to have a combination of both. You want to have a handful of beta-readers because they are reflective of the general audience who your manuscript will appeal to. You also want to have critique partners because they tell you the harsh truth (and you need that!)

This step is ESSENTIAL! And this is why!

As writers, we are probably blind to the own flaws in our manuscript. Even when we have taken a break from the manuscript, we know the characters and the story so well in our head, that it’s hard for us to be objective. Often times a beta-reader or CP points out to me a plot hole I didn’t notice, or a character whose motivation is unclear, or a scene that is too slow-paced.

Sometimes the reverse is true: we are too harsh on ourselves. Have you had moments when you feel like your writing is just….. bad? I’ve been there so many times. After I finish the first draft of my novel, I always have a handful of scenes that I really dislike, that I plan on canning in the next draft. BUT then my beta-reader or CP tells me that they actually really love this scene. Just like how we are blind to the flaws in our novel, sometimes we are also blind to the things that really shine.

Step 3: Compile Feedback!

After sending out your novel to your beta-readers and CPs, the feedback begins to trickle in. People are reading your novel, and they like it! It is a warm and fuzzy feeling, isn’t it? BUT along with the positive and encouraging compliments, there will also be constructive criticism. (Unless your novel is perfect, in which case please ignore this post since you won’t have to edit hahahaha…)

Constructive criticism is hard to hear. What do you mean, my novel isn’t perfect? What do you mean I have to fix this?!

The answer is YES. You DO have to fix this. Listen to your beta-readers and CPs, because they are usually right. In fact, constructive criticism is one of the best things you can get for your novel, because it is the key to making your manuscript (even) better.

Depending on how many beta-readers and CPs you have, it might feel overwhelming just to compile the sheer amount of feedback that you get. How do you get the suggestions all in one place? I have seen two ways of how this is done:

Option 1. Use Google doc.

By sharing a Google doc among your beta-readers and CPs, you can get all your revisions in one place. I haven’t used this option myself, and I don’t like it very much. One reason being that Google doc can be super slow if you are sharing along a huge document and there are multiple people viewing it. Another reason is that when multiple people are commenting on a single document, they influence each other. However, I want my beta-readers and CPs to each formulate their own opinion.

Option 2: Use a spreadsheet to compile comments from separate Word documents / PDFs

This is my go-to option (because I love spreadsheets hahaha.) I send my manuscript to each beta-reader individually as a PDF, then I compile the comments into a master spreadsheet that contains all beta-reader comments.

Here is what my spreadsheet looks like:

As you guys can see, this sheet is divided into three tabs: structural (developmental) edits, copy edits, and line edits. Each beta-reader/CP has their own column.

It is also important to separate between different types of suggestions that your beta-readers have. Some edits are higher level (I’ll call them Developmental Edits) which involve scrapping a whole character or changing the climax in the novel. Some edits are lower level (let’s call them Copy Edits and Line Edits) which involve making sure elements are consistent between scenes (e.g. eye colour of your main character) and spelling/grammar are intact. We want to target the high-level edits first, because there is no sense in perfecting every single sentence in your novel if you will end up rewriting half the scenes!

If you guys are curious about the spreadsheet that I use for compiling beta-reader feedback, feel free to access a read-only copy by clicking here:

[FEEDBACK TEMPLATE]
(Feel free to save a copy for your own personal use.)

This post is getting pretty long, so we will continue next week! In Part 2, I will describe in more detail the different types of edit and how I use my template.

In the mean time, please let me know what you think about this editing process, and how your own editing process works? I am always up for meeting new writing friends, so let me know if you are looking for a critique partner!

Who else loves spreadsheets? For the writers out there: what is your editing process?

30 thoughts on “My Editing Process Part 1 (template included!)

  1. I want to get writing again but I kind of get overwhelmed by the idea of plotting πŸ˜… I am tempted to try NaNoWriMo one year though. And all of these steps make sense (: I definitely agree that a break is vital for the reasons that you’ve said. I also think it can help you spot spelling and grammatical errors to as if you read something that you’ve written right after finishing it, you just tend to automatically read it how it should be. That’s my experience anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Charlotte! Yes a break is definitely necessary before editing a book! I notice that I’ll catch spelling and grammar errors more easily that way, and also plot holes and flaws in characterization as well. You’re absolutely right that when we read our own work right away, we tend to read it as how we’ve imagined it in our head, rather than how it is written πŸ™‚ That’s great that you’re interested in trying out NaNoWriMo in the future. Do you think you’ll be giving it a shot this year??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes that’s definitely what I’ve found too in the past. I think it’ll probably end up being next year tbh as I need to do some kind of planning for it first (I only have a few random notes right now). I do want to attempt it one year though

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah I’d say whenever you feel up to it πŸ™‚ You can also take it slow and write a bit every month, rather than trying to do 50K all in one go. Everyone has a different writing pace πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s great!! Yes I’ll be doing Nano this year and prepping throughout October as well. Are you starting a new novel? We should add each other as buddies on the Nano website πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great!! I’m so glad that you’re doing Nanowrimo this year too! I actually couldn’t find you on the Nanowrimo website (maybe it’s a problem with my browser?) My username is portabelloxoxo πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fantastic post! πŸ₯° I’m currently in edits with my WIP so this is very relevant to me. I’m still doing my first round of revision, but I’ll need to enlist beta readers/critique partners after I’ve cleaned up the messy first draft a bit, so reading about how you’re approaching this has been super helpful πŸ’— This would be my first time working with beta readers, so I’ll definitely save your template for future reference – thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Caro!! Glad to hear that this is helpful for you! Let me know when you’re in need of a beta-reader or critique partner. I would be glad to sign up!! Also, are you thinking about doing Nanowrimo this year?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. AH SOPHIE thank you so much for this wonderful post and for that template, too, this is so helpful ❀ I'm definitely thinking of taking back one of my WIPs – you know the one, actually πŸ˜€ – and to really compile the wonderful feedback I had to try and really edit it all, but…. it feels so daunting and scary and I'm just…. scared haha. I'll tackle that someday for sure once I'm done with my current draft of another project and your template will be so helpful. thank you ❀ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie!!! Yes I remember trying to edit my manuscript for the first time haha. It was really daunting to think about how to combine all the comments and suggestions that my beta-readers wrote! Hope that you’ll find this method helpful πŸ™‚ Wishing you all the best with your current WIP!! (and editing your previous one, whenever you get a chance to do this!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Sophie, one thing I learned, is to NOT listen to all of my beta readers and critique partners, lol. They usually mean well, but not all of their critiques and suggestions actually make sense. Sometimes, they are even trying to turn your story into a story that THEY would write, which is not helpful for you. It’s good to think about what YOU want to write, and how you want to write it, rather than to trust everybody’s opinion–which will drive you nuts anyway, especially when different readers want you to do opposite things. So I see beta reader and critique partner feedback as information, but it’s up to me how I use that information, and whether I make those changes they want.

    I’ll give some examples of feedback that I gave to others, that did not benefit them. There was a girl’s short story where I thought the writing was too plain and bland; imo, she ought to put in more metaphors and similes, and make her writing more colorful and interesting. Nah. That wasn’t good feedback, because she has a plainer, more bare-bones style of writing. I was unwittingly trying to turn her story into something that I would like. Interestingly, this girl and some others gave me the opposite feedback, which I also needed to ignore. I used a lot of metaphors and imagery in my story, but my critique partners felt like I needed to cut them down, that writing “must be” economical and plain. (Can you tell that they love Hemingway? I personally don’t like Hemingway’s writing very much. I was more into authors with more elaborate and exquisite writing, such as Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot.) Lol, that’s another case of writers trying to pull other people’s writing into their own style. It was well-intentioned feedback, but it was inappropriate for my story.

    What we can do, is to keep in mind that some readers had this reaction to our writing. But we are not obligated to change our style to suit their tastes. Just as I wasn’t obligated to cut my prose down to the bare bones, plain style, that girl also had no need to listen to my advice of embellishing and beautifying her prose, lol.

    One more example: Once, I told a friend that her character should not be saying, “Go back to China, you worm!”, because that was really racist–and made me feel uncomfortable. (My friend is Chinese, btw.) But my friend kept that quote the same, because her character truly is racist, lol. Similarly, I haven’t given this feedback yet, but imagine if I told a writer to not use so many f-bombs in their writing. They would probably tell me to f off too, lol. Another example of feedback that doesn’t help the writer, and only tries to bend their style to suit your personal taste, is if you tell someone to cut out all the sex scenes. I sort of want to tell some writers to cut out all their sex scenes, because I usually find them boring. But I really should sod off rather than to try to bend their style to mine, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Sieran!

      That’s a really good point that we shouldn’t be trying to incorporate all of our beta-reader feedback (I really should have raised this point in this post but the post was already getting too long lol) especially when the beta-reader/CP is trying to change the essence of your story to their story. It happened recently with one of my beta-readers (not you, by the way! you were considerate and practical with your suggestions) who had made suggestions that involved major changes to the plot. For example, they suggested that I remove an entire supporting character and rewrite the scenes that involved the character. I seriously considered the suggestion however none of the other beta-readers shared the same concern; everyone else seemed to like the character that this one beta-reader wanted to axe. In the end I went with the majority opinion haha XD

      As for offensive content, I get that in some cases it might be allowed (e.g. if a character is intended to sound racist) however I do think it is our responsibility as a beta-reader to bring it up if it makes us personally uncomfortable, because it might cause other readers to feel this way too. One example was a novel that I beta-read that had (pardon the kind of graphic description!!) rape scenes between an 18-year-old and a 50-ish-year-old and the younger person actually ended up enjoying being raped? That was really disturbing for me to read so I had to make it known to the writer lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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