Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting in the Mood to Edit

Whenever I start a new editing project, I have to prepare myself.

In between projects, I'm doing a multitude of things - teaching, reading (students' work, books for review, etc.), grading, prepping lectures, being a sister, a best friend...and the list goes on.

The last thing I want is for these things to distract me - especially on the first day of editing.

I usually take an hour to prepare. I grab the first chapter of the manuscript and a cup of coffee, and I go into a quiet corner and read - purely for pleasure. The dreaded blood-red pencil is far away on a desk somewhere.

I do this to unwind. I do this to discard all the goings on of the day and to focus on the task at hand. I do this to acquaint myself with the style, flow, characters, ideas behind the story. That first chapter needs to do a LOT for the reader, and I know that if I can sit and read it without being "the editor", then I can commit myself to the project.

Once I read the chapter for pleasure, I head to my computer and I play about 15 minutes' worth of Christian music. A little prayer for a good edit can't hurt, right? But really, I do this to loosen me up, to lift my spirits, and to get me ready for the next event: EDITING.

On the first day, I do editing jags. A jag is concentrated work within a specific amount of time. When I write, I do either 30-minute or hour long writing jags to spark my creativity...or to force me into creativity.

I do the same for editing. I tend to do hour long editing jags in a quiet location. After an hour, I'll stop, maybe make more coffee, meditate, read my Bible, whatever is conducive to keeping me peaceful.

Depending on my success with the first jag, I can do several more in one day.

Once I have those initial pages edited, I'm committed to the piece, and I know I want to work hard to make sure the manuscript is the best it can be.

How do you prepare yourself to tackle editing?


Shon Bacon is better known online as ChickLitGurrl. An author, editor, and educator, Shon's biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically; she interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING, and you can learn more about Shon's writings, editorial services, and thoughts at her blog The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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  1. I need to have quiet, at least to start, because that's the only way I can ensure a mind open to what I'm about to read; any outside noise or music can subconsciously shift my mood and focus and make me less objective. As for food/drink, I'll have some tea but that's it. If I get hungry, I stop and eat and then go back. We owe it to our writers to give them undivided attention.

  2. I don't edit professionally, but I do edits of my own stuff, and that's probably my least favorite part of the writing process. It's hard!

    Thanks for the suggestion (and definition!) of jag. I've definitely heard it before, but never knew exactly what it meant. I'll have to try it!

  3. For me it's getting centered. I need to find my happy, peaceful place before I start. Distractions are a bad thing because then I overlook important details. I usually either edit late at night while everyone else is asleep, or early in the morning just after they've all gone to school or work. Coffee is a must have, and music. I like your tip on reading for pleasure first. I noticed that personally, if I read for pleasure my inner editor still makes appearances for the big stuff.

  4. What I need is quiet. No music, now background noise.

    I rarely find myself forgetting what I'm doing and reading for pleasure instead. I guess it's because I really focus in and keep a pad and pencil handy to make notes.

    If I get hungry, I take a break or that thought will keep creeping into my head and distract me. Besides, I tend to automatically take a break about every hour, if for nothing more than to stand and stretch.

    And I usually take a longer break, say, overnight, before I begin the second or third read-through.

  5. Definitely quiet for me, too. No music, no chit-chat, and definitely no barking dogs. I wonder if that's an age-related concentration issue. I work in 50-minutes spurts with ten minutes break. The ol' psychologist's "hour"!

    Testing, testing.... comments seem to be working.


  6. I also like quiet -- no distractions and no interruptions. Sometimes I edit with Track Changes in Word, but my favorite method is to work with a printed copy. The only thing I need to prepare is a fresh pot of coffee.

  7. If I get hungry, I stop and eat and then go back. We owe it to our writers to give them undivided attention.

    Work from home India

  8. If I get hungry, I stop and eat and then go back. We owe it to our writers to give them undivided attention.

    Work from home India

  9. As for food/drink, I'll have some tea but that's it

    Work from home India


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.