The big push

After much agonising over the pace of editing my current manuscript, I’m being forced to focus. One of my favourite publishers is opening their doors to unsolicited works for the month of March, leaving me 20 days to complete an edit.

So the questions is, what’s the best way to edit? The process for me (at least) is very different than actually ‘writing’, and I find myself spending many -painful- hours on every paragraph. The deadline of March 14th will help somewhat with that, but surely there must be some tried and tested away of approaching editing a novel (which still allows for sleep, my day job, and seeing my wife once in a while).

Any suggestions?

There are several ways to do this, but I think Holly Lisle’s is amongst the best.

Shell –

In all seriousness, doing what you want to do is going to mean not doing some things you want to do, like using vacation time (if it exists) for vacation and seeing your wife every once in awhile. And you have 34 days, not 20. The time it takes you to read books and articles on how to do what you want to do is going to take time away from doing what you want to do.

Best of luck!


Yes, shortness of time is why I didn’t recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Browne and King, which would otherwise be a suitable read for the OP.

Mind you, 34 days ought to be adequate. You can over-polish.

You might want to have a look at Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself (W. W. Norton, 2007) for about 200 pages of the best advice you’ll ever receive, written in some of the most beautiful non-fiction prose you’ll ever read.



What Hugh said. I would have posted the link myself if he hadn’t beaten me to it.


Thank you, everyone, for your replies. You’re great! The Holly Lisle article is really, really useful, and I think I will use this as place to start. Funnily enough, I tried writing a synopsis this morning thinking it would help me check the themes and character arcs - so it seems I’m already doing some of what Holly suggests.

Now I just need to figure out how to sneakily print 400 pages without the boss noticing :slight_smile:

(kidding, boss, if you happen to google this!)

In a pinch, read it aloud to yourself. It’s quick, will catch most of the glaring grammatical, word context and spelling problems and it’s fun.

By the way, aloud means as if you were reading to be heard, not mumbling to yourself.

Good luck! Much success.


I’ve taken to reading it out-loud to my (poor) wife. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind too much. It’s amazing how many mistakes we catch this way, and I find it especially useful for ‘beat and flow’.

Editing went well on Saturday, where Sirin and I took over a corner of Spoon Bistro for most of the day. She was studying her Japanese while being my online research assistant! Fact-checking while editing is so very time consuming. I could spend a year doing more research for this novel and still not be satisfied.

(Oh to win the lottery, fly to Japan, hire a car, and actually drive the route of the novel!)

Not essential.

But don’t under-estimate the distances.

In Ye Olden Dayes of Publisshinge, by which I mean before publishers were run by sales reps and accountants, and computers were roughly the size of gas stations, this is how all books received their final proofing.

I spent many hours sitting face to face with a bright young lady, reading aloud to one another and swapping off speaking and marking-up roles every 12 pages. We caught virtually everything. Except, of course, the tragic flaw that we were proofing not the new Vonnegut or the new Heller but the newest textbook meant to help MBAs transfer the contents of our bank accounts to their bank accounts.

Still, they were error-free, and flowed beautifully.

(Now, of course, proofing is off-shored to a laid-off editor working on his kitchen table after the kids are in bed.)

Excellent news. And good luck on the lottery thing. I still haven’t figured that one out. Course I don’t play, so that may have something to do with it.



I spent two days stuck in a research loop. I now know an awful lot about a Miyazaki-city (Japan) and the longevity of car batteries, but I have only managed to edit 2 pages. I’m cursed.

Unless you are Mrs vic-k you are not the cursededest. So cheer up. It could be worse.

Taking the next 9.5 days off work to finish this MS. I need big blocks of time that I can’t fit in around the day job.