Time to Edit: Oh, the Joy!

My friend Emily Rattray Wenstrom recently wrote about her editing process. She described the first draft as the bones of her story, and later versions as being fleshed out and plumped up.

I loved her description of discovering her characters and her setting anew as she began her first edit. That perfectly describes how I look at editing.

The editing process is something to look forward to, in which you become intimate friends with your characters and setting.

Think of your first draft like meeting someone new. You may have heard people talk about this person, so you think you know something about her. You may even have a preconceived concept of who this person is, from the things you’ve heard. At your first meeting you think to yourself, “This is someone I’d like to get to know better.”

So you’ve met this intriguing person who could become a close friend. Now you have the time and opportunity to move into some kind of relationship with her. You may find that you remain intrigued by her; you may love her personality and her adventurous spirit. You may discover she’s not at all the person you thought she would be.

You go to lunch a couple of times and enjoy the conversations you share. Your first impression was accurate. This woman is exciting – you want to spend more time with her. One day she confides she’s always had a desire to move to Zanzibar and become a spice trader. You gasp with delight at this revelation. Suddenly she’s more mysterious and fascinating.

Now you’re into your first rewrite. You’re learning more about your characters, fleshing them out, giving them life.

You’re spending more time with your new friend, going out for dinner a couple of times each week, meeting some of her friends. Everything you do together is another opportunity to discover shared interests and beliefs. And you amiably learn all your differences. Each time you get together you feel more comfortable and in tune with your friend.

You move into your second and third edits. You rewrite to create a clearer image of your character. Your plot lines coalesce as you tighten them into a riveting pattern of revelation and consequences.

You and your friend visit each other often, sharing frequent dinners, discussing new and old ideas. The two of you sit late into the night, enjoying each other’s company. You’re in each other’s homes so often that you know where everything is in her kitchen, and she stocks your favorite beverage in her refrigerator. You know this is a friendship that is deep and lasting.

Ah! You’ve done your last edit and rewrite. You’ve polished and perfected until your manuscript glows. If your characters knocked at your front door, you’d know them at once.

The editing you’ve done has created characters that live and breathe within the pages of your manuscript. The revelations you’ve received in each edit about motives, values and loves has led you to flesh out your story, investing in it the emotions of real people. Real people who will become your readers. The care you’ve taken in crafting your story may be transparent to your readers, but they will fall in love with the depth of your characters and live your words through their imaginations.

Job well done!


What’s your favorite aspect of editing? Leave a comment and tell us how you reach that point in your writing process.

2 thoughts on “Time to Edit: Oh, the Joy!

  1. Great post, Suzanne. I love this idea that your characters are friends that you are getting to know better and better as your manuscript develops.

    And thanks for the callout 🙂

    1. I’m always glad to share articles that help us look at writing from a new perspective, Emily. Your article provided the kick-off for me to elaborate on the concept I’ve always held that editing isn’t torture, it’s creating a relationship with your words and characters. So thank you!

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