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?


Edits….so much red

I decided for my current self-publishing venture to hire an editor. I’ve never worked with one before. In the past the story was edited and then published by the publisher, I didn’t have much input.

I read a ton of articles on how to chose an editor and the types of editing available. Mind boggling. I narrowed down the list to four and sent each a small section of the story. Each one edited the section differently. They all picked up on different issues. I asked for line edits. Some did just that, others went further and gave helpful tips or ideas about the story itself. Prices ranged from groceries for a family of 4 to a night at the movies. I have a tiny budget so I picked an editor that was affordable and that gave more than just a line edit.

She was wonderful and very helpful. I learned a lot about writing and how I write.

  • I did have flashbacks from high school English.
  • I need to purchase a copy of The Chicago Manuel of Style.  That would have helped a bit before I sent it to the editor.
  • You really do need an extra pair of eyes. As the writer, we know what we want to say and our brain is wonderful about filling in the blanks. Our readers don’t have that ability. They only have the words  on the page.
  • Head hopping is a virus that must be killed. Yes, that is a bit dramatic. I mentioned in a previous post that I have this problem. I didn’t realize it until this summer. Now, it is in the forefront of my mind and I look for that when I self-edit.
  • You don’t have to take their advice. You are paying for their advice and experience. If you ignore them, make sure it’s for a really good reason and not pride.
  • They can be cheerleaders. My editor did call me out on several things, but she also let me know when I was doing something right. Her greatest compliment to me was she didn’t expect the twist I gave the ending. She knew something was going to happen, which did happen, but I went further than what she expected and so it made a better ending. I think it does. You can read it shortly and let me know.
  • It’s a great learning experience. Reading her comments made me look at my writing in a different way. I had to go through and decide if I wanted to keep it or make a change. It was hard but well worth it.
  • Editing created a stronger story. I know if I sent the new story to another editor they would have new/different changes. That’s OK. No story or novel is perfect. Go pick up a bestseller. They have issues too. The goal is to make it as strong as you can.

What experience have you had with editors?



Summer To-do List

Bob says, "Get to work."

Bob says, “Get to work.”

I’ve had a terrible time writing this summer. We’ve been too busy. I settled in my easy chair after a day of running the children from place to place and thought about what I could do. Hiring a nanny and chauffeur is out. Letting my 12 yr old do all the driving is frowned upon in the city. My transporter has yet to arrive from Amazon.  That leaves:

  • Read– yes that’s right read.  A writer must read. There’s reading for enjoyment and then there’s reading for improvement and research.  All are a necessity for writers. Reading popular books in and out of my genre is helpful in exposing me to other ways of doing something. That’s vague!  Example:One cozy mystery is similar to other cozy mysteries. Characters, setting, and theme are different. You know a cozy when you read it. Reading different authors allows me to see how they handle the cozy genre. What boundaries are they pushing? What’s different/fresh with this story over another? Reading outside my genre allows me to see what is possible beyond. I don’t write juvenile/YA literature but I enjoy reading it. It gives me perspective on what is on the minds of YA readers.  I can also catchup on my nonfiction “writing” books. Just got a new one in the mail last week and I have 3 on my Kindle to read this summer on self-publishing.  Reading is essential.
  • CraftYes, I went there. This is funny, since I just read an article on this in the current issue of Writer’s Digest. Working on a different hobby can enhance your creativity and writing. As I teach my kids to sew PJs this summer I am using a different part of my brain.  I’m flexing that creative muscle in a different area.
  • Writing Prompts– short writing sprints that have nothing to do with a current project. It’s fun just to write for the sake of writing.  It’s just to see what happens.
  • Edit- I have 4 short stories that are almost ready to be released upon the world. I want to get them trimmed up and ready.
  • Reconnect– I need to go back over to Critique Circle. When I was active it was helpful.

I think that’s enough to accomplish over summer.

What summer goals do you have?


A Look At Editing

I am currently editing/revising my WIP, Dead in the Water.  I ditched the prologue, I had hoped to salvage it and make it the first chapter, but it wasn’t possible.  I do think the book is stronger without it.

Rue, helping me edit.

Roux, helping me edit.

Editing– (according to Wiki.) is the act of preparing material (all kinds) to convey information.

Now, that’s vague.

Revising– (according to the free dictionary) is preparing an edited text.

Lovely.  I know there are different forms of editing.  I’m not going through that, but if you are interested here’s some good info:

Novel Publicity

Knite writes     has been writing a series on how editing will drive you insane.  I have fallen into several of these.  Grab a cuppa and read through her blog, it’s a hoot.

A Writer’s Life for Me has a blog post on how to survive the meatgrinder at Smashwords.  That’s more about formatting than actual editing, but I thought I would add that as well.


I’ve edited about 2/3 of my WIP.  Some days it’s quick and easy, others it’s like growing tulips in the South.  It just ain’t happening.  I don’t know how other writer’s do it, but for me it can look like this:

pages 1-12: delete and add info in other places

pages 13-15: a few typos and grammar errors

page 16: too much description, get rid of 3 paragraphs, tighten to make it less passive (show don’t tell)

page 17-21: no changes

pages 22-25: change dialogue of this character, he’s bland and sounds like someone else. Make a note to check his voice throughout the book

page: 25-29: no changes

chapter 12- POV just changed to someone new, rewrite entire chapter!

Drink coffee, eat cake, and pass out.

Obviously, this scenario is an exaggeration, but not by much.  I don’t enjoy editing as much as planning and writing.  After a while, I tend to over think grammar and question every use of punctuation.  At the same time, it’s interesting to see your manuscript change and evolve into a better piece of writing.

How do you edit?