So as most of you know, Mez and I are counting down to September 15th, which is the day we decided to exchange the manuscripts we have been working on. We chose this date so we would both have time to read them before getting together, giving us more time to talk them over instead of just sitting together reading them. Granted, we have done that before, and it’s fun, but our Writing Retreat is already packed full of things to do.

Mez and I have done some ‘editing’ of each other’s works before, so here is a brief explanation of what we do. Hopefully, it will help some of you if have an opportunity to peer edit your writing buddy’s work!

Now, in an ideal world, Mez and I would be exchanging second, third, or even fourth drafts. In other words, drafts with most of the plot intact and characters in place. However, Mez and I both seem to have an aversion to deadlines; I don’t think either of us has ever met one we set for ourselves. Something to work on!

That said, this time Mez and I will have to exchange first drafts…and it will be a small miracle if those first drafts are complete. I hate letting anyone read my first drafts; they’re messy, inconsistent, and full of holes. Mez said she has to cut a lot of hers and fix the plot. Basically, our first drafts need a LOT of work, and most of it is obvious, something we don’t need peer editing to know it needs to be fixed.

So why are we doing it?

How many of you have gotten to the point you have to edit your work? How many of you have been brave enough to let someone else edit your work? Because it does take courage! If you’ve gotten to that point, you probably have your own way of doing things. When I’m editing, I like it printed out. Not usually the first draft, but all the subsequent drafts. Sitting with my (or Mez’s) printed manuscript and a red pen is definitely my preferred way to edit. It so much easier to discuss things sitting together over a pot of tea with actual printed pages, even if they are a messy, cringe-worthy first draft, than it is to discuss over Skype. So even though we don’t like handing out our first drafts, we are seizing the opportunity of actual physical proximity to do what we can.

Random tip: if you can afford it, get a laser printer. They are awesome. SO FAST! Printing out a two hundred page manuscript on an inkjet is painstakingly slow and uses a ton of ink. Lasers are fast and while the toner is more expensive, you go though less. Highly recommend! 

We can help each other a lot, even with the first draft. General edits instead of specific.

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When we edit each other’s clean, next-to-final drafts, we look for

  • Spelling and grammar errors (the kind the computer doesn’t find, like mixing up ‘form’ and ‘from’…I do that all the time)
  • Making sure the chapters begin with a ‘hook’ and end with a ‘cliff’
  • Inconsistencies (in point of view, plot, characters, tense, etc.)
  • Anything confusing (sentences, dialogue, or plot lines)
  • Awkward wording
  • Anything that knocks the reader out of the story world
  • Anything and everything else!

We look for specifics, down to the word. Of course, we aren’t professional editors, but after the third draft and the millionth read through, we get ‘blind’ to things in our own manuscripts, and fresh eyes do a lot of good.

Editing first drafts is going to be very different. It won’t do any good to look for spelling errors because there will be a ton of them. The plot is still being solidified, characters’ personalities figured out. There will be a lot of things wrong that don’t need to be pointed out because, hey, it’s a first draft! So really, instead of editing, it will be more along the lines of a discussion about generalities.

  • What characters should stay or go
  • Making sure the story world rules make sense and are clear
  • Plot lines that need to be cut or added
  • If the overall plot makes sense
  • Where description needs to be added or cut
  • Checking the pace and noting where it’s going to slow
  • Making sure the beginning is intriguing and the ending is satisfying
  • Discussing any questions on what to do

globe-907709_1920So that’s the plan! Once we have more polished drafts, we’ll exchange them again for a more detailed edit. Unfortunately, that will have to take place when we are an ocean apart. Oh well, maybe it will teach us to meet our deadlines!