Editing Tricks

Marathon Editing

Editing Tribulations and Tricks

For the last several months, I have been stuck in editing mode. It’s not that I dislike editing. I just like creating new stories better.

Editing becomes a tribulation when all you do is edit from morning to night. That’s what happens when you fast draft three books in a row and then have to ready them for publication all at the same time.

When you spend that much time editing, your eyes begin to go bleary. Then you start to miss errors. Then your mind starts to drift. And then you find yourself reading your e-mail or raiding the fridge. Not good!

Ideally, I would write new stories in the morning and do my editing in the afternoon. But that doesn’t work very well when you have deadlines to meet. So I have come up with some editing tricks that have really helped me work more efficiently and faster when doing Marathon Editing.

Five Editing Tricks

Trick 1

Set a goal for the number of pages you have to have edited by the end of each day. If you are mathematically inclined, this would be the total number of pages divided by the number of days you have to get the editing done.

Trick 2

Set a timer. Edit for twenty minutes and then force yourself to take a break for 5 to 10 minutes. Get up and move. Shake out the kinks. Do a dance, go for a walk, or assume a yoga pose  Make sure to peer off in the distance so your eyes don’t get stuck at computer focus distance. Then edit twenty minutes more and repeat.

Trick 3

Use the text to speech function that comes with your computer or one of the text-to-speech readers such as NaturalReader  to read your writing to you. Having the computer lady or guy read aloud slows down your eye speed and lets you look at each word and sentence more carefully. You instantly know when you’ve missed a period because the voice doesn’t stop when you expect it too. It also helps you checkout comma placement, find misspellings, and discover those pesky missing words.  Despite the annoying voices, hearing them read aloud the dialogue is the best way to see if it reads naturally.

Trick 4

Work backwards. All writers love their own stories. It is easy to get lost in the tale and forget to look for missing words and misspellings and so on. So start at the back and work to the front page by page. If you still get lost in the story. Limit each read aloud to one paragraph.

Trick 5 

Use Autocrit or ProWritingAid to find repeated words, overused words, and clichés.

HINT: All of these trick also work for editing blog posts.

What editing tricks do you use? 

8 thoughts on “Marathon Editing

  1. Great tips. I’m one of those odd people who actually enjoys writing and editing equally, but I also have a bag of tricks to help with the latter. One of my favorites is to do a search for specific words like: just, only, feel, felt, see, saw, and heard. Then I do another for ly words. Once I’ve taken all those out, I’ve made a good dent. And I can do that without actually reading my draft word for word so it’s relatively quick and easy.

    The only tip you gave that doesn’t work for me is setting a page count goal. I find some chapters fly by, and others need loads of work. So I like to set a number of daily hours instead.


    1. Using the FIND tool in the wordprocessor is a great help in editing. Thanks for pointing that out. The trick is knowing what to search for. We all have our own overused “favorites.” Mine are nodded and stomach and stepped.


  2. Great tips, Zara! I don’t have the ability for text to speech on my computer. (They no longer have it on windows 7) I’ll have to check out Natural Reader. I’ve just finished a final galley for one of my books and I’m exhausted! I’ve read it aloud so many times. I usually work for an hour and then take a break. In addition, I will carve out an hour of creative writing at the end of a long day of edits. This helps to calm me and keep the muse going on my other projects. I can’t remember when I wasn’t facing some sort of deadline, Zara. It’s all in the balance, right? Thanks for sharing and all the best!


  3. Great tips, Zara! I don’t have the ability for text to speech on my computer (They removed it from windows 7), but I think I’ll check into Natural Reader. I’ve just completed a final galley, and I’m so done reading aloud my own story. I tend to read/edit for an hour and then stretch and take a break. However, I do carve out time at the end of my day for at least one hour of creative writing. I’m always working on some deadline, so this works best for me. All the best! 🙂


    1. I have Windows 7. The text-to-speech is found in Word. It is hard to find. You can find the directions on the web. But basically you go to the upper top left on a document page where the little save icon is (otherwise known as the Quick Access Toolbar). Go over to the tiny tiny arrow to the right and click. This opens a Commands list. In the box at the top choose All Commands. Go the Ss and find SPEAK. The icon looks like a cartoon bubble. Chick on it. Choose ADD in the center and it will be added to that Quick Access Tool Bar. To use highlight your text, click the speak icon. It will read about a page and a half of text at a time.


    1. Reading aloud is a good way to catch tone and word choices. Sometimes we forget how important the sound of the words are to our readers.
      Having to edit 3 novels back to back was an accident. I was working on book 3 in my series when I got Book 2 back from the publisher to go over. Then I received a request for a full manuscript that I needed to give one last thorough look over. So there I was editing all of them one after another.


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