Can You Make Editing Fun? by Carol Malone

Fight Card: Ladies NightPlease welcome author and book coach in training Carol Malone.Today she’s sharing her article regarding various ways to make book editing fun. Enjoy!


The pop rock group of the 1970s, Fleetwood Mac had a hit song titled, “You Make Loving Fun.” The song revealed a couple of perimeters that made lovin’ fun to the singer. These were magic and miracles. When I think about the dirty work of editing my manuscripts, I wish I had a little bit of magic or a miracle or two to make my book editing as much fun as lovin’. It couldn’t hurt, right?

Author and writing guru Elissa Graham in her blog post, “How To Make Editing Fun,” states that [editing] “…is hard work. Much harder than just gushing out the first draft. [She] is on a seek and destroy mission for passive sentences,” etc. But she has a little fun with some advice from the movie, Mary Poppins where Mary entices the children to do the difficult work of cleaning up the nursery and they sing “…a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Could sugar make it easier to edit?

Can a miracle, or magic, or even a spoonful of sugar make our editing go down easier?

Yes. Sometimes all three are necessary. Then there are other times when nothing appears to help. That’s why I choose editing fun as the topic of the month of October. It’s nearly time for NaNoWriMo – the Novel Writing Month of November. But how can I start another manuscript when if I’ve failed to edit the novel from last November?

Well, I’ll tell you what. I can’t face another unedited page with my good cheer intact. So I need help.

I can’t always see what should be eliminated because I love all my words. It’s my greatest frustration. I’m what my coach Beth Barany calls, “novel blind.” I’ve grown visionless to the overuse of my favorite words, the plot holes, the lengthy narrative, the too boring backstory, and the general sense to NOT “trim the fat.”

I should be totally prepared to push forward, jump in, run through it, and chase my dangling participles. Unfortunately, although editing is tough, sweaty work, not one calorie has been exercised off my hide. Not fair.

There is no “Easy Button” for editing.

It’s time-consuming. It’s also demanding, exacting, and precise work. It’s also boring. Sad to say, but you can actually become bored with your own stories, especially if you’ve read them through a zillion times. The words all meld together like my mom’s refrigerator soup.

Using a dash of inspiration from Elissa Graham’s article, I came up with my own list of “editing” wishes and dreams to help me. See if one or more of these steps would make editing fun for you:

  1. I could pretend my manuscript is secret emails or illegal, covert documents obtained by the FBI regarding the illegal activities of Hilary Clinton, and the overused words, dialogue tags, and excessive narrative will get redacted by the FBI.
  1. I could wish the elves who made the fine shoes for the shoemaker might have book-editing elf brothers who will mysteriously sneak into my office at night to finish my editing.
  1. I could pretend I’m editing Nora Roberts‘ latest unpublished romance and scoff at her amateur mistakes like overused words, major plot holes, and characters with no emotion or motivation.
  1. Simon Cowell has created a new talent search show called, “America’s Got Writers,” and I’m going to be a contestant and read my first chapter for Simon, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and J.K. Rowling. Then I’ll win the $1,000,000 and get my own book on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.
  1. I could create an app so powerful and so precise that it will edit my book for me. I’ll sell the app, so I can retire to live off the profits.
  1. I could pretend I’m auditioning for the newest talent competition show, “The Novel,” much like “The Voice,” where my novel will be read aloud for the judges. The judges are reps from the Big 4 publishers. They’ll sit in the large, red chairs and will turn around because of my dynamic words and plead with me to join their team so they can publish my book.
  1. I could publish my manuscript by chapters on my blog like Andy Weir did with The Martian, and have my readers edit it for me.
  1. I could mail one chapter at a time to inmates in San Quentin and ask for advice. They have lots of time on their hands.

My list seemed like a lot of “fun,” but not very practical.

So I consulted some of my writing friends and got their practical ideas for helping to make editing fun. I hope you find some of them useful:

I think if you want to put the happy face on editing, then you need to focus on the rewards related to the final work. You start with a solid base with promise, and through work and effort, through concerted and focused splitting and polishing, you slowly uncover the diamond it always was.” ~ Pat

“How can you make each sentence sparkle? It isn’t a chore, but like decorating a cake. If you write sad stories, look for words that grab a reader’s heart strings. Go over each scene and take it apart. Smile as you feel the emotion grabbing you, maybe making you cry or sniffle. Your reader will likely feel the same way. If you write scary, look for ways to make a scene scarier. Use scary words. Build the fear. Grin each time you make your work scarier! Take pride as you hit the description that is perfect!” ~ Mary

“Some of the highest highs I’ve ever felt (and I’m including tequila and childbirth in this) were when I’d just finished editing a scene and felt I’d nailed it. Never during the first draft, because that’s even more painful than childbirth! But the editing, the polishing, the twisting, and turning a scene over – those are the moments when you just want to tell everyone how brilliant you are!” ~ Kathryn

“Rewrites and edits are your chance to play with ways to add details that build characterization, like Jane’s need to grab a glass to wash it before it is empty. And setting: the warm breezes teased her hair, or the salt in the air stung her face. Now that you have the story done you can delete what isn’t needed. You can rearrange details for impact. Rub your hands together and enjoy. You started with nothing, then you created a work of art. Now you can add a stroke to the canvas here or smudge a detail that needs smudging or sharpen a point on the spike on the fence, or add blood to make your reader wonder.’ ~ Mary M

“I LOVE editing. I find writing the hard part – but once I get it out and start editing it, I’m really happy. I probably spend a lot more time editing and changing than I did writing in the first place.

I forget which writer said something like “Kill the darlings,” but I’ve recently come to understand what that means. In the process of editing the book I’m writing now, I’ve had to kill off (move to files for perhaps later use) much of what I thought was brilliant during the first or second or fifth draft.” ~ Diane

“I don’t know if I agree with the idea that the only creative aspect of writing is the first draft. Editing might not be the most fun, but it’s still a creative endeavor. The difference between the two is that editing is a marriage between creativity and control. Creativity isn’t thrown out the window in the editing process, it’s fine tuned. If you throw creativity away you wouldn’t end up with a book you’d be proud to call yours. No aspect of the writing process lacks creativity. That’s like saying that you are going to knit with no yarn.” ~ Fae

“When I edit something that is a mess and it comes out cleaner, it is like changing the sheets on my bed. Crisper, cleaner … something nice to lay down in. The anticipation of laying down in a nicely made bed is motivation enough for me to put in the work of doing the laundry and making the bed. Editing is fun when I slip into a comfy bed of words that work. The feeling of finding that word, or of killing off crap … the relief and the thrill both at the same time.” ~ Hugh

“An article of mine on not freaking out about edits. Don’t Fear The Reaper (or How to Kill your Darlings)  When in doubt, reduce everything to a script. You can have nothing but dialogue and rudimentary stage direction. Then, re-read it so that you can see where a sentence or two of elaboration could drive the scene forward.” ~ Kaki

“The cool thing about it is like scriptures, you can read your manuscript a hundred times and each time, something new will pop out at you and you wonder why you didn’t think of it before. However, you also have to reach a point where you know it’s the best it’s going to be and move on.” ~ Laura

For me the fun is seeing the improvement. That makes it worthwhile.” ~ Regena

“I get a new pen, print it out, and have a ball putting color all over the page! :-)” ~ Cassie

This is my favorite thing to do! Editing is actually the fun part for me! But when major revisions turn into a grind, I go on walks to refresh my brain.” ~ Amber

“I discover new ideas through different forms of media (other books, film, the web, etc). The instant I get a new idea, I want to dive into my chair, and start looking for subtle ways to weave it in. I’ve also noticed that a lot of my most satisfying editing happens whenever I decide to share my book with other people (hint hint, nudge nudge).” ~ Michael

“I make my husband read the mushy parts in his “this is so cheesy” voice.” ~ Michelle

“I spent all of high school and college deconstructing stories to find out how they work, so I do the same with my projects to find out how they’d work better. Here’s a thought I have pretty often – writers don’t have the joy of buying crap for their hobby on a regular basis. Sure, fancy pens and notebooks abound, but actual writing stuff? Laptops, software, and drives … that’s about it. EXCEPT when you’re revising! 😀 Suddenly, you have every excuse to get stuff to visualize your story new ways! Notecards, highlighters, whiteboards, magnets, grids, graphs, charts, etc.! That makes revision fun. It’d be real nice if you could add in my website as a reference. ” ~ Allison said in their article, “Use Easy and Familiar Language,”:

Finally, remember that if we don’t edit, we don’t learn. Essentially, aim above all for the best possible work you can do and for a vision that is uniquely yours. Then your own pleasure in the work and your skill will shine through to the reader, agent or editor. Don’t forget – you don’t have to do all of this at once. Just make that commitment to the read-through, pick up the manuscript and a pencil to scribble with and before you know it, you’re engaged in the process.”

Great advice came from Beth Barany:

Step by step, word by word. Narrow your focus to the present and enjoy each moment. If you can’t find fun, search for that motivating factor. For some it’s imagining their readers enjoying the book, turning the pages late into the night. For others, it’s the anticipation of a finished book in their hands. Still for others it’s that sense of accomplishment they anticipate. Find what that positive thing is for you.”

The trick for all of us who hate to see our brilliant words lying cut and bleeding on our office floor is to consider the fact that we’re taking our first-draft coal and compressing it, polishing it until we can see ourselves in the diamond of a completely edited manuscript.

Hopefully, you’ve found some advice in this article to help you with your own editing. I’m very interested to know how you “Make Editing Fun.” Leave me a comment below.



Author, Carol MaloneAn award-winning author, Carol Malone writes new-pulp-fiction suspense kissed with romance that rockets readers into the past to uncover a hard-fought happily-ever-after. If not hammering out new tales, Carol is reading, watching the Dodgers, reruns of Castle, and the Food Network with her sci-fi author husband on the coast of California. She loves to connect with her readers and invites them to chat about romance and sports on her website.




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