Over at the Place of Mark Barnes: On the Importance of Being Edited (and Editing)

Author's own mess.

Author’s own mess.

The lovely Mr Mark Barnes asked if I’d write a short blog post for him about how important editing is to your work at every stage. I wrote a lot. May contain ranting, but there is also lots of useful stuff there too.

There’s a particular kind of arrogance that can trip up a new writer (and sometimes even an experienced one) and it goes something like this, “I just wrote The End, so it’s all done.”


The End, to paraphrase The Mummy’s Imhotep, is just the beginning.

Your first draft is just that: a draft. It needs tender loving care as well as brutal pruning to shape it into a piece that’s not only something someone wants to read, but also something that someone (i.e. an editor/publisher) wants to (a) put into print and (b) pay you for.

Editing is a form of auditing and before an experienced editor/publisher will look at your work you need to make sure what you’re sending to them is the best you can produce. You must go over your own work to make sure that you have actually written what you think you’ve written: are spelling and grammar all present and correct? Does the ending match the beginning? Is the story’s internal logic flawless? Do characters act in a manner consistent with their motivation and characterisation? Are those characters believable and engaging or merely cookie-cutter stereotypes that interest no one? Does the pacing work as it should or does the story have a flabby middle that needs tightening? Are your descriptions apposite and sharp, rather than simply a bruised purple mess? My expertise is in short stories, but most of what follows can – and should – be applied to longer works as well. I can’t cover everything here, but I’ll do my best.

The rest is here.

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