How do You Edit a Short Story?

Sounds like a set up for a bad joke.  The answer would be- very carefully!

Bob says, "Get to work."

Bob says, “Get to work.”

But seriously, when I started writing I didn’t really know where to start. I read articles and blogs but mainly just based it on how I revised papers in college. I joined Critique Circle, that helped. I’m working on revising/editing Mystic Brew, it was critiqued in October.  I thought I’d share what I’m doing with it now.

I had 4 people critique it. All were helpful, the thing with online critiques is you don’t know these people.

  1.  I printed the story out again, stapled it together.  I always work from a printed copy. I make changes on the computer but I NEED a printed copy. I labeled it EDITS in large letters.
  2. I printed out each critique and assigned it a number, stapled it together.
  3. I scrounged around for 4 different colored pens and assigned each crit. it’s own color. Ex: critique 1 is red, 2 is blue, 3 is purple, and 4 is green. I didn’t use black because the story is printed in black.
  4. I read each crit and mark the Edits story in the correct color. Ex. All of the red marks and notes are from crit 1. by the time I’m through, it looks like a 3rd grade went nuts. It’s covered in marks, questions, and statements.
  5. If a crit. had a particular interest in a certain element I make a note. For instance, crit 1 paid particular attention to dialogue format. So I made a note to check my format. Crit 2 brought my attention to filter words. I will admit I have never paid much attention to filter words, but I will now. I will have links at the bottom if you want to read about filter words. #2 was also a butcher, I mean that in a nice way. They called my attention to several areas where I need to trim or cut. Obviously, when I go back to do the edits I will have to decide if I agree or not. Crit 3 went on an adverb hunt. Crit 4 did a little of everything.
  6. I think the key to a good edit is balancing what the crit says you should do with what you think you should do. By having the crits on one paper in different colors I can see at a glance what areas were hit by more than one crit. I know off the bat that those areas need work.
  7. Steps 1 -6 is the easy part. Now I have to sit down and decide which advice to take and which to toss. I know the story and the tone. I know what I want to accomplish better than they do, but they act as the first reader. They pick up on issues I didn’t notice. Now, I take my rainbow covered story and edit it on the computer.
  8. Guess what, I print it out again and read it! See what I missed the first go round.
  9. This particular piece is headed to a local critique group. Who knows what they will have to say.

There you go. My insane edit process. For those of you interested in filter words, here are a few articles:

write it sideways

Invisible ink editing

filter words

Any editing tips to share?


One thought on “How do You Edit a Short Story?

  1. I used to read a lot of agent blogs when I started off and there was one piece of advice that rung very true to me. This agent said something along the lines if because she suggested a change doesn’t mean she expected a writer to fix it that way. The point in her suggesting was to point out there was an issue and offer a resolution. Above all she just preferred it fixed (as writers often thought of better ways than her suggestion).

    So, when I get crits, I see look to see not only the suggestion, but the reason behind it.

    Sounds like you have a good practice there. I’m still working mine out. I still fear printing. (“The ink!!!” From years of owning expensive printer systems)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s