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Copyright 2005 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

A Typical Self-Edit

How Often and How Heavily Do I Edit Myself?
Sample Pages from an Edit

"As a writer, my job is to read the same story over and over, day after day,
at least 398 times, and still get excited about it the 399th time through."

                                  - Tara K. Harper

How Often and How Heavily Do I Edit Myself?

How often and how heavily do I edit myself?  As often as I open each text file, I edit.  As often as I look at each printed page, I edit.  Even if I promise myself that I'm quitting now to go to bed, I'll just have to make this one more change, and then that one, and then, I can't let that go.  And I might as well just go to the end of the chapter...  I'm not obsessive about editing or rewriting.  I'm just thorough.

When a book finally reaches the stage where I'm changing only one or two words every two or three pages, it's ready to go to my editor.  Until then, I edit.  Alright, I'll confess I continue to edit after it goes off to the editor, but that's just the way I am.  It drives me nuts to know that the word there, that one, right in the middle of the paragraph, is wrong, or that the rhythm is off in the lines, or that I forgot to add that tidbit about the mark on so-and-so's shoulder...

Why am I explaining a self-edit?  Because it's critical for new or aspiring writers to remember that writing isn't about putting something down on paper.  It's about making the medium live.  That means going back over your work, looking for weaknesses, problems, pacing issues, etc.  It means making one pass to explore and add to the depth of one secondary character, and another pass to fix the rhythm of the dialog, and yet another pass to look for redundancies.

In my opinion, the only written medium that can achieve perfection is poetry.  Novels are too broad a canvas.  You can't be perfect, but you can be darned good if you try to put the effort into every line of your story that poets do in their poems.

So, edit.  Rewrite.  And rewrite again and again.  Don't ever let that one wrong word go.  Change it, dress it up, delete it, but fix it, because if you noticed it, you can be sure your readers will too.

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Sample Pages from an Edit

The four pages below are typical of a self-edit for the printed page.  In this case, it's the beginning of a new book, and I've gone over this chapter perhaps only ten or twelve times.  That is not a lot.  By the time a book is finished, I may have gone over some sections over a hundred times.

Note that I edited the printed pages below after I'd already edited those pages that day on the computer.  I printed the pages out for a spot edit because print is a different medium than computer screen.  On paper, I'll see different issues than on screen.  I'll read differently, and so I'll notice different errors or rough spots or holes in the plot than I would if I kept the story solely on-screen.  That's something I always recommend to other writers.  Edit on-screen, sure, but also print out your story and edit it in paper.  It's a whole different world that way.

Also, I consider the edit below (the sample pages) to be fairly light.  I'm not taking out or adding huge chunks.  I'm just line/story editing to tighten up and/or detail all the different character and plot threads, clarify the language, and tighten up the overall presentation of the story.

Sample Pages from a Typical Self-Edit



Copyright 2005 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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