Getting Back to Writing #2: Into the Editing Cave

Writing 2

Hello fellow bookworms 🖋 It’s time for another writing update! This is Part 2 in my ‘Getting Back to Writing’ Series and all about Editing! It has been a while because I have been in the editing cave and today I’m sharing part 1 of my process with you. This is all very exciting, because this is my first time doing any type of revision, so you can follow me trying to accomplish this daunting task! I’m following Susan Dennard’s Revision Guide, because I have no idea about editing and she put together a 6 Lesson Course that breaks down editing into smaller lessons, that don’t overwhelm you and make revision more manageable! For more information on the course click on the link above (You can find the materials under ‘On Revision’), because I’ll not be explaining everything in detail (This post is already very long oops) and Susan explains it perfectly! I definitely made the right decision following her advice, but as you’ll see I also changed a few things, as not everything is right for me since every writer is different. Like with every bit of advice, it’s best to adjust it to your personal preferences!

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I got myself a folder for my printed manuscript 💕

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Lesson 1: Complete Readthrough & Editing Notes

What I needed for this step

  • A printed out Manuscript
  • Colored Pens
  • My Laptop/Google Sheets Spreadsheets
  • Patience and lots of coffee

My first step was to do a complete readthrough of my manuscript, as I hadn’t looked at it for over a year, so I had a lot more perspective, though you don’t need to wait that long. Normally setting things aside for a few weeks is alright, but getting distance from your writing is important. A lot of sources (including Susan’s revision course) require you to print out the manuscript in order to read it because seeing it in another format can be helpful to spot mistakes. Originally I was apprehensive about this because my first draft was LONG, but for me printing it on my own printer (double-sided, single spacing, Times New Roman, 11pt) worked out okay – just make sure you NUMBER the pages, so they don’t get out of order. If you want to write your edits into the manuscript like Susan does, you should probably go with double spacing to have more space for notes, but as I didn’t plan on doing that, having a smaller font and spacing worked out fine.

The first Readthrough was HARD because there were so many mistakes I spotted and inconsistencies that discouraged me from tackling this revision, as it seemed hopeless. Nevertheless, I continued my readthrough, but spaced out over 10 days and not the recommended ‘reading in one sitting’, because I couldn’t do it in one day. I think that’s still okay, as the general idea is just to not wait too long in between reading the draft, so it’s fresh in mind!

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Now on to what I did during reading my manuscript because I also made the recommended notes on the 4 big aspects that will be tackled in revision: PLOT, CHARACTER, SETTING and OTHER PROBLEMS (color-coded of course). Recommended is filling out 4 separate worksheets for the categories whenever you come across a problem and noting the page number (and chapter, scene number, but I didn’t have chapters yet) as well as describing what kind of problem you spotted, but this wasn’t working for me. I ended up writing down all notes on the manuscript in the margin where I spotted the problem (I used the appropriately colored pen and noted down the number of the problem e.g. the 10th character problem would be written with my green pen), because switching between manuscript and worksheets (or another notebook) was disrupting my workflow. I know the worksheets are amazing because they let you write down all problems already neatly sorted into the categories that you’ll work with later on, but I couldn’t make it through the manuscript this way. However, I made sure that I DIDN’T correct any typos, grammar, etc. because that’s why the course recommends you don’t write on your manuscript at all (my inner rebel is coming out) – editing small things isn’t helpful as they might get cut anyway.

As you can see from how much text I’ve already written this is one of the biggest steps, as it’s all about identifying everything that went wrong with the first draft. Because I’m a writer, who works a lot on my computer, I created a Master excel spreadsheet (from the To-Do-List Template) and transcribed all of my manuscript notes into the four categories. That was great because it allowed me to go over all the problems I found and change/add new notes to them. The Spreadsheet also made it easy to stay organized, as I could easily switch between the different categories and had all the problems in one place. For me, this was THE perfect way to approach revision! I love the course, but I’m not a very pen and paper-oriented writer (in part because I have terrible handwriting).

My Master Excel Spreadsheet, I’m very proud of this 🥰

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Lesson 2: Index Card Scene Outline

What I needed for this step

  • Index Cards
  • Printed Manuscript for reference
  • A Blue Pen

The next step was fairly straightforward: I made an outline of the book I had written using index cards. The idea behind this is to basically use a card for every scene in your draft and write down the following: Scene Number (and technically chapter number, but I still don’t have those), Scene Title, Number of pages in the manuscript and a quick summary of what happens in the scene (Goal of the Main Character, Antagonist, Conflict). In the end, you have a stack of cards that contain a short overview of the plot of your WIP that will come in handy later! If you need to add any scenes you just use a new index card and mark it somehow, so it’s obvious that this is a new scene.

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Example of one of my Scenes 📚

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Lesson 3: The Book You Wrote vs. The Perfect Book

What I needed for this step

  • Index Cards
  • My Master Excel Spreadsheet
  • Original Notes
  • The Worksheets

This is a super helpful step because it’s important to know what you currently have and what the perfect version of your story would look like, as the latter is the goal you’re working towards! One of the exercises is to write yourself a ‘fan letter’, pretend you’re someone who has loved your book (when it’s the best version it could be) and is writing about all the things they appreciated and fangirled over. At first, it was weird to gush over my own book, but it’s great to evaluate what I want my story to be like in the end and how I want to make my readers feel!

Another great tool is writing a 1-page synopsis using the formula Susan Dennard introduced, both for your current draft and the perfect draft. That’s a good idea because it allows you to look at the plot differences between the two synopses and aim towards getting your manuscript closer to the perfect synopsis!

Then there were a bunch of worksheets about evaluating plot, character and setting in your current draft. For example, I looked deeper into any plot holes and character inconsistencies by using my stack of index cards and going through them (plot by plot, character by character) and looking at my original manuscript notes. I also highly recommend keeping a list of what scenes you want to cut, rewrite or add! I had a flawed draft, so I had lots of scenes to heavily rewrite and also some scenes to add was my beginning was too rushed. Keeping a list helped me make sure I knew what I needed to keep in mind plot-wise. Afterward I used the worksheets about the perfect draft that ask you to develop your perfect characters and setting: I found it helpful to figure out what I wanted my characters to be and how my perfect setting would look like, as it allowed me to add more suggestions to what I would need to change in my current manuscript. I wrote down all of the answers to the worksheet questions in more excel spreadsheets so I had them in the same place as my original notes!

An excerpt from my Scene Changes List

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Lesson 4: Making a Plan of Attack

What I needed for this step

  • Index Cards
  • My Master Excel Spreadsheet
  • A Black Pen
  • Colored Sticky Notes

This is one of the most crucial steps as it’s all about preparing yourself to actually make the changes that you’ve kept track of aka creating a plan of attack. I find it a bit hard to explain, but this step is about figuring out what changes need to be made in each scene to achieve the perfect draft that I had defined in the previous step. Once again, this is done by looking at the different categories (plot, character, setting, other) and adding a color-coded sticky note with the necessary changes to each scene card. I did it according to the categories, meaning that I started with all the Plot changes then Character changes, etc. I didn’t separate things by character or plotline but rather went through the scenes chronologically and consulted my Master Spreadsheet for my original notes and new notes. On the sticky note, I summarized what I needed to be done in the scene as efficient as I could and then went to the next scene. After doing this for all the categories I mostly had 4 sticky notes on each scene card (beautifully colorful) detailing the changes that needed to be made. Tada! And that’s where I’m at! I now have a plan of attack and the next step is actually making those changes, rewriting scenes and adding completely new scenes as well. It’s going to be wild.

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Some more great editing resources

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Find out what happens next in the next writing update! Not sure when as I have to do the most work now, but I’ll report back 💕

Let's Talk (1)How is your WIP coming along? Do you have any experience with revision or any editing tips? 🖋


14 thoughts on “Getting Back to Writing #2: Into the Editing Cave

  1. This is such a wonderful post, Caro! ❤ I am not much of a writer, but wow, printing out the manuscript and refraining from editing small details like grammar and spelling mistakes, sounds like a great idea! I can absolutely see how reading through the manuscript in a different format can help. Color coordinating with the pens is another awesome approach! Thanks for sharing, love! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this was so cool to read and see how your editing progress is going! Congrats on accomplishing so much! I’m still in the drafting stage of my WIP but I’m weirdly excited to get to editing. I think I’ll definitely be using some of these same resources! That strategy is writing a fan letter to yourself sounds really cool, since usually the book as it is is so far from its “perfect” version and I usually don’t know how to even begun getting it there. I think I’m gonna try that when the time comes! Thanks, Caro! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Margaret!! 🥰❤️ I hope your WIP is going well! I’m happy that the resources can be helpful for you in the future ☺️
      Writing a fan letter was a bit weird at first, but super effective as it highlighted what I wanted the audience to fall in love with 😍
      Thanks for reading 💕


  3. I’m SO proud of you Caro and everything you’ve been doing, yay for getting back to writing and editing and I’m really rooting for you. Editing is so complicated, I never really did it a whole damn lot or in a conventional way, but I’m definitely planning to use your blog post as a resource to help me when I do. Thank you so much for sharing ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Marie that means a lot!! 😭💕 I’m still learning about editing as this is my very first time, but following a course is helpful to not feel lost! I’m happy that I could help you with this best and wish you all the best for your writing projects!💖

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Caro! My mind literally just exploded at your spreadsheet — it’s amazing! Also a crazy good idea! I’m currently going through my 3-level revision process (which I’ve actually just added a fourth level to because great minds think alike lol) and my list of problems consists of scattered sticky notes and a bullet point list in Scrivener where I say “idk” ever 3 words. I had so much fun reading through your process. I hope it’s going well for you! 💛


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