Strategies for Editing

In my very limited experience editing is not easy. Or maybe it’s just not as fun as other parts of the writing journey? When I’m plotting I get to play with pretty spreadsheets. While writing I am creating worlds and grand adventures for my characters. But when it comes to editing all I have to do is cut or change words. The element of creativity is greatly diminished and now the challenge is perfection. Not hard at all, really :|.

This is the first time that I am editing a novel-length story… I’m certainly finding it a challenge, but here is how I plan to tackle it:

#1 Editing Comes First

It would be easy to become embroiled in a new plot or a fresh band of characters in my next story. Which is why I must not start the next story until revision of Vengeance Will Come is at least well underway if not complete.

#2 Divide and Conquer

If I think of my editing task as simply editing 114,000 words the task seems daunting. Beyond daunting.

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

Fortunately my novel is arranged in handy divisions called chapters and scenes, so I can use them to divide the problem. It’s only a mental division, but if it helps in the process it’s a win.

#3 Have a Clear Goal

If I’m editing with a vague purpose (e.g. “tighten the prose up”) then it would be really easy to gloss over the text, stamp it as done and move on. I’ve read in multiple places that a revision should cut 10% off the length so that’s what I am considering to be my goal.

I can’t remember exactly where I heard it but one approach was to cut 10% of words in every scene. Even if I cut an entire scene (and so reduce a chapter by more than 10%), all of the remaining scenes for the chapter must still be trimmed.

I’m not a stringent believer that every chapter should be the same length – but I do appreciate that it is helpful to the reader if they become accustomed to chapter length. Being my first novel, chapter uniformity wasn’t a consideration, as you can see from the chart below.

VWC Chapter length pre-edit
The length of the chapters is seemingly random

I’m not a miracle worker, so it is mostly what it is. I will however make some effort to harmonise the chapter lengths by making the % reduction more sophisticated. Hold onto your hats, this is about to get complex.

  • All scenes will have a minimum target of 10% reduction.
  • If the chapter length is 21% to 60% larger than the average chapter length and the scene is more than 20% larger than the average scene then it will be cut by 13%.
  • If the chapter length is more than 60% larger than the average chapter length and the scene is more than 20% larger than the average scene then it will be cut by 15%.

The idea is that the bigger the chapter, the harder the cutting. (I will of course be also looking for chapter-splitting opportunities on the skyscrapers in the graph above). Based on all these formulas it would result in an overall reduction of 12,773 words.

vwc stats before edit

vwc edit goal

An example of a darling to be cut.

“Friend is a slippery term when one is rich or powerful, and I am both. I have too many ‘friends’ already, why would I wish for more?” Regent Menas Senay, Vengeance Will Come.

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