The Editing Challenge Of Forever

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I’ve been busy editing A Bridge To The Quiet Planet lately.  And it struck me that editing is a strange thing as it’s never truly done.

First, you have mistakes you may want to catch.  Those are easy to find with modern tools, but finding all of them takes a great deal of effort.  You can worry over and over you may have missed something.

Secondly, you have those non-mistakes but choices you question.  This word or that?  This style or that?  Is this take a bit archaic?  These aren’t mistakes, but are questions of best choices.

Third, you just have all those things you could tweak.  Cut this scene?  Different opening? Is this still timely?

Editing is never done.  Ever, because you can always find new ways to do things, find new problems, miss something and look for it.  Worse, if you make some edits, you might have made new mistakes to worry about!

It’s a lot like coding, only your book runs in the brains of your readers, and each reader is different.

At some point you just have to stop editing.  At some point you have to declare done.  At some point you have to move on, or you’ll go crazy.  You have to stop editing.

I found the best way to do this is to set a standard for yourself.  Do X readthroughs.  Run a grammar/spell check at particular times.  Then, go on.

Go on, edit, but give yourself a break.

BONUS: An idea I got from Serdar is that, when you’re done, do a bounty on mistakes in your book.  Not only is that a great idea to get people to participate, it gives you a way to relax a bit . . .


Steven Savage

Editing Into The New

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

It’s a strange thing, editing “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” my upcoming novel that you only know about if you hear me talking about it constantly.  Editing has become a bit of a slog.

This is no fault of my exceptional editor.  My editor (who if you want to get an intro, I will do, so you can give her lots of money) did an exceptional job.  The problem is I’m kind of tired of reading my book.

I mean, yes, I like the characters.  I like the setting.  I like the story.  It’s a contra-epic of various odd people in a world of magic and mystery dearly not wanting to have a legendary adventure, since lots of stuff dies when those happen.

It’s just you know I’ve seen it a lot.  Over and over again.  It’s a drag and it’s a bit boring.

Today, however, I realized my editor had given me a way to enjoy it again.

See, by following my editor’s advice, by editing my book, I’m rewriting it.  As I rewrite it, it becomes a new book.  What happens during the editing process is not just me reviewing, it’s me discovering a new version of my book.

I know the characters better.  I enjoy the new prose.  I like the revelations I inserted.  It is new.

Suddenly, it’s a bit more enjoyable.  I mean I won’t lie, editing is work, but realizing I’m finding a new book makes it much easier.

So if you’re tired of editing, remember you’re not just editing – you’re discovering a newer and better book.


Editing: The Fiction/Nonfiction Difference

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As everyone who even remotely checks my blogs knows, I’m editing A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my techno-fantasy novel and return to fiction.  I’m learning a lot from the editing process and my editor (who I am glad to refer to anyone).

One of the things I’ve realized is how radically different editing fiction and nonfiction are.

This probably surprises few people, but it had never really crossed my mind.  This was because I’ve done both and I’ve written so much over the decades, I hadn’t thought about the shift.  It was all ‘writing’ to me, and I assumed I wouldn’t be that rusty.

Well, I was definitely a bit rusty.  But I also began to see the unique challenges of fiction writing after spending time away from it.

Fact checking is harder.  In fiction you’re basically making facts up.  You’ve got to check and be checked on things you pulled out of the air.

There’s more ways to do it.  Instructional and nonfiction works have certain structures and patterns you usually end up following – from the workflow of a process to breaking things down.  Fiction gives you room with metaphor, wordplay, flashbacks, etc. that give you so many ways to do fiction editing and planning is much harder.

You’re in the heads of unreal people . . . you have to get into the minds of fictional people as you write about them.  So you not only have to empathize with your audience, you have to empathize with people that don’t exist.

. . . and have to empathize with your audience in complex ways.  If I write a good instructional or nonfiction piece, I have very set goals and can pretty easily figure my audience out to deliver it.  For fiction I have to think of a variety of experiences the audience may have, their attitudes, backgrounds, and more – and wrap all that in connecting them to a fictional world.

There’s much more back and forth in fiction.  Because of the unique elements of fiction, I find that editing is a lot more of a back and forth thing.  You find a bit of inconsistent language here and have to go back all over your story.  You realize you need to tweak a “feel” here and there.  With nonfiction I usually can go through one or two edits and be done, with fiction there’s more.

You have more of an illusion to keep up.  Nonfiction is about reality and communicating.  Fiction needs you to keep up the illusion, which requires you to be careful with language, repeated words, being properly evocative, etc.

So that was informative.  I’m glad I took time to write it down.  Now let’s see what else I learn . . .

-Steven Savage