That title is a mess. It’ll have to do.

As so many of my posts start, I read a thread the other day that asked “Will writing fiction improve your non-fiction writing skills?” This is a question I’ve seen a lot, in many different forms. And a lot of times, people answer with, “Sure! It doesn’t matter what you’re writing–writing well is writing well!”

And that’s… kind of true? A little? But I don’t agree with the spirit of that answer.

Here’s why.

Some writing skills are universal.

Grammar. Spelling. The ability to choose words that mean what you want them to mean. The ability to identify your target audience and write toward their level of understanding.

These are your transferable skills. It’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, a fact sheet, a lesson plan, or a marketing campaign. These matter. Someone who is good at these will have the basic skills needed to write anything.

But it doesn’t mean that someone with good writing skills will be good at all kinds of writing, because…

But different kinds of writing have different institutional skills.

Unfortunately, “writing well” is not the only thing you need to write a good novel or a really successful marketing campaign. Every style of writing has its own, separate sub-skills that are unique to that medium–and if you don’t know them, you may be okay at writing, but you won’t be amazing.

Think about it this way: do you think that people who do marketing writing have to know different things than people who do technical writing? Or hey, you’ve written novels: do you think you could stroll into an ad agency and get a job as a copywriter, right now, with no other training?

Of course not. There’s a reason that you could get a degree in marketing, journalism, technical writing, and English and learn completely different skills. They all probably have a 101 course to beat basic writing skills into you, and they all probably have professors who’d rail on you for using too many unnecessary words. But they’d also teach you specialized skills that are unique to each style of writing.

For example, let’s look at what I do for a living: web writing.

You don’t write websites like you do novels. All web writing is designed around the idea that people skim, people search, and no one reads everything you’ve written. How often do you go through a website and read every single page on the site? Never, right? Heck, people rarely even start at the top of a page and read every single word on the way down.

So when you write for web, you write in tiny little paragraph-nuggets of information. You use headers to break text into distinct sections, so people can jump to just the part that they care about. You use short paragraphs. You use lots of white space, and things that facilitate white space, like bullets. You have to think about how links are used and how they’re written. And that’s without getting into the more technical requirements, like SEO.

And I’ve seen exceptional writers–people with 20 years of experience writing technical reports–sit down and write 10-page, super-dense, extremely deep websites, with… references? And footnotes?! And the words are good, because they’re great at explaining things, but no one’s going to read that thing because it’s not good web writing.

This isn’t to say this hypothetical person couldn’t be good at web writing. Of course they could! They’d probably pick it up quickly, because they have a really good foundation. But to be actually good at it, writing well is not enough–they’d have to learn the skills that make web writing unique.

This is exactly the same for fiction.

Seriously. Let’s think about it:

  • Being good at writing English class essays doesn’t mean you know how to do the plotting, worldbuilding, characterization, or tension development that’s needed to write a fiction novel.
  • Knowing how to write a good novel doesn’t mean you can write a good query letter. Queries are more like marketing documents than create writing–and a lot of writers struggle with them.
  • And, to answer the question this post started with: writing fiction won’t teach you how to structure a non-fiction book, how to convey real-world experiences or data in an engaging way, how to do research, or any of the other talents that non-fiction writers use and novelists don’t. (And to make things worse, non-fiction and fiction books are also queried differently.)

Like all things, the devil’s in the details.

So when someone asks if writing fiction makes you good at non-fiction, or if writing essays or doing online roleplaying or anything that isn’t writing novels would make you a better novelist, I’d answer… not… really? Writing novels, learning about novels, and studying novel-related skills makes you better at novels. Because, in the end, writing well is a lot more than just grammar.

TL;DR: You get better at something by practicing it, not something kind of similar to it.

I guess I could have probably just replaced this entire article with that, huh?

Photo of notecards covered in writing.

Notecards can be a great way to map a story.
reboot8: Notes Day 1 vs. Day 2,” by Peter Lindberg, CC BY 2.0

It’s been quite a while since my last Introduction to Editing post, so if you haven’t seen the first two, check them out!

My last post went through the things you have to do before you make any changes: reading your first draft and taking notes. At this point, you’ve transformed that reading into a to-do list, and identified the changes that mean you need to delete, create, or completely rewrite scenes.

And now it’s time for your first edit: the structural edit.

First thing’s first. What the heck is a structural edit?

A structural edit is the highest of the high-level of edits. During a structural edit, you’re concerned about big, conceptual, 30,000-foot questions, like:

  • What is the pacing like in this story? Are there long, boring sections where nothing happens or places where too much happens in too little time?
  • What is the characterization like? Do characters gradually grow and change over time?
  • Are big events foreshadowed?
  • Will the worldbuilding elements in your story be sufficiently understood before they become important to the plot?

“But, Ellie!” You might say. “In the last step, you only told me to identify content that I needed to rewrite! Now you’re telling me to look for big problems! Those aren’t the same, are they?” And they actually are! …In a roundabout way!

This is why you read your novel first. By reading like a reader, you got to experience the pacing, worldbuilding, character development, and plotting firsthand. And the biggest problems–the ones that make your skin itch and your brain go, “I should have never ever written that”–are the ones that require complete rewriting.

And structural issues can only be fixed by deleting, creating, reorganizing, or rewriting big chunks of content. A story that sags terribly in the middle may need several chapters deleted and replaced with something faster, more active, more engaging. A character arc where a character never grows may need new scenes that develop that character. Very rarely can a big, gaping problem like “I never really showed how my magic system worked” be fixed with one or two well-placed sentences–usually, it requires moving stuff around, adding new content, and deleting stuff that doesn’t work.

So that’s what we’re doing.

But the whole point of this series is that you’re not going to edit everything in the story at once. So what are we not doing? We’re not:

  • Editing any scene that you want to keep fundamentally the same. In fact, you’re not going to touch anything unless you need to delete it and write something else in its place. This means that most of your story will be left alone.
  • Editing for word choice or grammar.
  • Worrying about whether a scene could be “better” (unless we intend to throw it away and write something else instead.)

In fact, we’re ignoring ALL of the content that fundamentally works. We’re only concerned with three things:

  • Deleting content that doesn’t work
  • Creating content that was missing
  • Rewriting content where a scene should be done in a totally different way. (Although this is sometimes just the same as deleting a scene and creating something totally new. Whatever. Semantics!)

How do you know if something needs to be rewritten?

This is something I went through rather quickly in my last post, but it’s worth covering again.

The difference between “I can force this scene to say what I want it to by editing it” and “I have to rewrite this scene and do something else with it” is a deeply personal choice, and that decision is up to you. It’s up to you to figure out which scenes you should rewrite (which means you’ll do it now) and which ones you want to just edit (which means you’ll do it in the next phase.)

But if you aren’t sure, take a look at your story arcs.

A “story arc” is any plotline that runs through the story. Every important character has a character arc. Your main plotline has a plot arc, as do your subplots.

And if you aren’t sure if something’s kind of working or really not working, try mapping your scenes. For example, you can:

  1. Choose a story arc.
  2. Use your story map to find every scene related to that arc. Write them down.
  3. Use index cards (or any other system you like). Number your cards. Each scene gets one card.
  4. Write a brief summary of what happens in that scene.
  5. Now you can see this plot arc–and just this plot arc, by itself–in order. Evaluate it.
    1. Do the scenes occur in a logical order?
    2. Did you explain everything that needed to be explained?
    3. Are the scenes close enough together that the reader will remember what’s going on?
    4. Does every scene do an effective job of showing what it should to keep this arc going?
    5. Are there too many scenes to explain this arc? (Is it slow or repetitive?) Too few? (Is it confusing or easy to forget?)

If a scene does what it needs to do–it’s necessary, it introduces the things you want it to, and what you generally want to happen does–then leave it alone. You can edit it later. If it doesn’t fit into its arc, then maybe you need to throw away that scene and have something else happen–a different event, at a different time, with different characters. Whatever introduces the elements that need to be explained, in order, in a way that makes sense.

So let’s get started.

You’ve read your story. You’ve seen which sections aren’t working. You’ve identified chapters to delete, create, and rewrite. Now you’ve just got a ton of writing to do.

Step #1: Delete.

Delete the scenes and/or chapters that you want to get rid of.

Step #2: Re-outline.

You already made a map of what your first draft looks like. That is now your outline.

Identify what new content you need to write and where it’ll go. If you need to move scenes around, do it now. Otherwise, Step #1 probably left you with some holes–what’s going to fill them?

Scrivener Tip: Scrivener is a pretty useful tool for this. Since you probably have one file for every scene, you can easily move your scenes where you want them and put in empty scenes where you’re going to write new content.

Step #2: Write all that new content.

Now it’s time to write. And write. And write! You’re going to write all the new scenes you identified in step #2. This is where you create totally new scenes or rewrite scenes that weren’t working.

Step #3: Reevaluate.

Now your story is complete…. again. You now have draft #2 of your novel.

It might be helpful to quickly skim the story again to see how everything feels. Does the story flow better now? Did you fix the big, gaping holes you identified in your pre-edit reading?

And now you have… a whole new rough draft.

So now you’ve written a few new chapters. You’ve deleted a few. You haven’t touched most of your story. But you have what is, essentially, draft #2.

The frustrating thing about this step is that, in essence, you’re not really fixing most of the story. By focusing on deleting, creating, and rewriting, you’re essentially only creating brand new content that still needs to be edited. This means that your draft #2 will be just as messy as draft #1.

But if you did this right, this should be the story you want to tell.

And if you did this step super right, you will have only worked on a few sections of the story. These are really important sections, yes–they’re the ones that need the biggest changes–but they’re still only a fraction of the entire novel. Your structural edit shouldn’t feel like you sat down and rewrote the entire story (usually, hopefully). You should have just fixed the largest, most gaping holes.

The words aren’t pretty yet. That’s fine. What’s important is that everything that everything is stuff you want to keep. Because the next step is real editing–and we just made sure we didn’t spend our time editing content that wasn’t worth keeping. (And also, we wrote all the new stuff, so we can now edit that stuff.)

So breathe a sigh of relief. This is, by far, the hardest step in the process. From here on out, the changes will be smaller and more local. Because while you might overhaul a scene to make it more effective, at least you won’t have to say “Should I delete it and do something else?”

And that sets us up for the next phase: the scene-by-scene edit.

Hope you’re looking forward to it!

Cover of How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.

Hotlinked from Goodreads.com.

(First, in unrelated news, check out the four-star Uncaged Book Review of my YA fantasy novel, Justice Unending! You can find it on page 98. And with that out of the way…)

I have a confession: I don’t know anything about marketing.

I started this blog and my author website several years ago, and proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all with them. I went on Twitter and then spoke to no one, because I’m super shy and have no idea how people make friends… anywhere, honestly, but Twitter especially. When my first novel came out, I did a few guest posts, posted a few announcements, put in one request for a book review, and wasn’t sure what else to do.

I really don’t know anything about marketing.

So I started reading.

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book covers an immense amount of turf. It’s divided into several sections: an introduction to marketing, short-term promotional techniques (which don’t require an established internet presence), long-term techniques (which do), and an example of how you’d bring all of these together for a launch or re-launch of a book. It also has an absolutely killer appendix that lists every single main point of the book in checklist form. It’s immensely skimmable, incredibly useful, and possibly my favorite part of the book. Seriously. And it’s an appendix. Full of bullet points.

The book is a little vague on the technical details, but I’m guessing that’s intentional. It doesn’t tell you how to make a Facebook ad, for example; it tells you why they’re a good idea and explains that you can use your email list to target lookalike groups, but it doesn’t explain how you actually go into Facebook and do that. (This is probably intentional–that gets into “How to use Facebook” territory, and I’m sure the author didn’t want to write a technical how-to that’ll just go out of date the next time Facebook tweaks something.) And while this is true for a lot of things (“just do a giveaway,” as opposed to “here’s where you can learn how to do an Amazon/Goodreads giveaway”) the author does have an awful lot of supplementary links on her website that explain things that the book does not.

So while I might not feel like I could run out this very second and run a Facebook campaign, I did come away with an immense amount of ideas. How to Market a Book covers a ton of ground, from ads to book reviews to videos, podcasts, and more. I now have a lot of ideas about what I could look into next–and isn’t that exactly what an introductory book on marketing should do?

Oh yes, one more thing: there is, unsurprisingly, a very, very heavy emphasis on self-publishing, and many of the techniques aren’t easy to do if you’re published through a publisher. I could probably experiment with categorization, keywords, and metadata, for example, but because I published with a small press, I’d have to send those changes through my publisher. I’m fairly sure I can’t do Amazon advertisements at all, since I don’t have access to the Amazon KDP page for my book. So if you aren’t self-published, you’ll have to suss out with specific elements are still open to you. (Don’t worry. There are still a lot.)

Overall, this is a really lovely book for someone who’s brand new to marketing. It doesn’t go into immense detail about anything, but it does cover a little bit about a lot. And that’s just what I needed: an idea on where to start.

Overall, five stars. It’s a great introductory book.

(Also, in totally related news, I now have a mailing list! You can sign up on my website. You’ll get a free short story, too! Or, if you’re a writer, you can get the word counting spreadsheet I used in my Fun Ways to Use Excel to Track Your Writing Progress [#1, #2] posts.)

I wanted to do a short post today. So let’s talk about something easy!

Here’s the situation: You, like so many unfortunate people, might have been taught to put two spaces after every period, because that’s how it was done in the days of the typewriter. But alas, that’s not how it works anymore. When you type on a computer, you put one space after a period. Always.

But you didn’t know that, and now you’ve written an 80,000-word novel with two periods after every punctuation mark. How do you fix that?

If your answer is “I guess I’ll clear out an afternoon and spend 5 hours deleting the extra spaces,” then have I got a lifesaver for you. (And if you’ve done this in the past, then I offer my condolences for the hours you’ll never get back.) This takes five seconds to fix.

Here’s how you do it in Microsoft Word.

  1. Open “Find and Replace.” (Shortcut: Control+H.)
  2. In “Find What,” enter two spaces.
  3. In “Replace With,” enter one space.
  4. Hit “Replace All.”

    Screenshot of Word's "Find and Replace" showing two spaces in "Find What."

    This screenshot is almost useless. But there are two spaces in “Find What,” I promise.

That’s it. That’s literally it.

Note: This will indiscriminately replace any place with more than one space in a row. So pause for a second and ask yourself: do you use multiple spaces for anything else?  For example, some people use spaces to indent. They shouldn’t, but still: this’ll mess that up.

(In fact, that would be a great opportunity to use Find and Replace to replace your space-indentations with tabs or to remove them entirely and use Microsoft Word’s automatic first line indentation.)

Find and Replace is surprisingly powerful, and can replace much more complicated things than just spaces. So if you’re ever faced with a messy manuscript, just remember: most formatting problems can be fixed in a couple of clicks. (And if you want to know how to fix most of the other problems, check out my mini-tutorial on putting a manuscript into Standard Manuscript Format.)

Anyway, that’s it! We’re done!

It’s been a while since my last post! I was in the middle of putting together a new post–a very short post–but thought I should address the elephant in the room: I haven’t posted in a while, have I?

And… no. I have not. Unfortunately, I am very bad at two things: multitasking and managing stress. So when something stressful comes around, stop doing anything else until the stress has passed. (Note: this isn’t a very good life skill.)

Unfortunately, my beloved 21-year-old cat started to decline in June, and passed away early in July. And–as mentioned above–I didn’t write at all last month, and I certainly haven’t blogged… at all.

(I’d post a picture of my poor kitty, but I’d also really like to be able to look at my own blog without getting a case of the sads. I’ve got pictures on my Twitter, I suppose. Ah. Twitter. That’s another thing I ought to actually use again.)

In any case, it’s time for me to get back on track. I might not jump right back into the next step of my editing series, as that’s an awfully big topic to hurl myself back into, but I’ll definitely be posting something in the coming days.

So, yes! Look forward to it!

 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how there are a lot of different kinds of edits and how you can edit a novel more easily by fixing different parts of your story at different times. If that sounds interesting, go check it out! This post’ll be here when you get back.

I was intending on jumping right in with a post about structural editing. But after a couple of drafts, I realized that I needed to start a little farther back. On day #1 of Mission: Edit this Awful First Draft, you’re not going to start by rewriting chapters 6-9, right?

Of course not. Your first step is to figure out what your problems are. Let’s start there.

Step #1: Read your entire novel and take excessive amounts of notes.

First thing’s first: read your entire novel.

But here’s the key: you’re not reading it like a reader. Your job isn’t to passively sit there, letting the word-thoughts beam happy feelings into your brain. You have to read your novel like an English major charged with dissecting it to death. You’re going to challenge every assumption. Think deeply about everything that happens.

You’re going to look at every single scene and ask: why?

  • What just happened?
  • Why did it it happen?
  • Does that objectively make sense, based on the facts of this world and the characters involved?
  • Have you previously explained the character/plot/worldbuilidng elements that the reader would require to understand this scene?
  • What new information does the reader learn from this scene?

These are simple questions, but they can open a lot of doors: why would this character [do the dramatic thing that makes for a good story] if you haven’t given them a strong enough motivation to do that instead of an equally viable, less-crazy choice? It’s awfully exciting to open your story up with an explosion, but will the reader understand it if why it matters hinges on understanding a lot of details about this world and the characters?

Don’t let yourself get away with lame answers. “Because it’s dramatic!” is not a good answer. “Because I like it!” is even worse. Remember: there’s nothing sacred about the creative process. Just because your first instinct was to write a fight scene or six chapters of chatty banter doesn’t mean that’s the one-and-only way to convey the information you need.

So ask why. Why did this happen? Is this the only way to do this scene? The most interesting way? Why is this scene important?

While you do this, take notes. I keep a separate file, create a new section for every scene, and then write down every thought I have. If I encounter a problem, I bold it. If something feels really important, I highlight the text or flag it in a different color.

Other Techniques to Try: Story Mapping

If you’re new to editing, you might want to take this opportunity to dig very, very deep into the structure of your story. Thankfully, there are a million ways to map a story!

Usually, this process entails identifying all of your main story arcs, including your character arcs, main plot arc, and subplot arcs. This lets you look at specific story arcs, by themselves, and ensure they aren’t abandoned for long stretches of time and that they grow and build over time.

Some of the story mapping techniques I’ve seen include:

There are a million ways to do this. See what works for you!

Step #2: Identify your problems.

Now it’s time to organize your notes.

My notes are always long and wordy. I write sentences and sentences about how such-and-such sounds weird, and maybe I should try this, and maybe I should be doing something more like this other thing…

These are great, but they’re not actionable. You can’t do anything with a paragraph-long rant about how your motivations are garbage.

So first, take each problem and distill it to its core:

  • [Character’s] motivation doesn’t make sense for this scene.
  • This plot twist wasn’t foreshadowed.
  • This doesn’t make sense. This character doesn’t know [fact], so they can’t act on it.

You will probably find that some issues go on for chapters and chapters and chapters. That’s good! Identify what scenes are affected.

Step #3: Turn those problems into a to-do list.

Now turn those problems into assignments for yourself.

  • Fix [character’s] motivations. (Chapters 4-8)
  • [Plot Twist] occurs in chapter 8. Foreshadow it before then. (Chapters 1-7)
  • Have character learn [fact] before chapter 5. (Chapters 1-4).

These are things you can do. Some of them are specific–“this character needs their motivation fixed in every scene where they appear between chapters 4-8” is a specific fix in a specific set of chapters. “Foreshadow this thing sometime before it happens” is not.

But that’s OK. You don’t need to know all of the solutions right now. In fact, during the first major editing phase (what I’m calling the “structural edit”) you may end up deleting entire chapters and rewriting entire sections. So some of these issues may end up resolved by the time you’re done rewriting. And if they don’t? Well, you can figure out which specific chapters to insert your specific fixes into once you know you’re not going to delete or rewrite them.

Step #4: Pull out the to-dos that require you to delete or completely rewrite content.

My to-do list is naturally organized by scene: it lists every scene in the book and what things I want to fix. But before I do those, I want to pull out two very special things:

  • Problems that require me to delete or completely rewrite scenes from scratch
  • Problems that need to be fixed, but I’m not sure where those fixes should happen

These are the two things we have to resolve in the structural editing phase. We can’t go on to step #2 (the scene-by-scene edit) until they’re done.

And now you’re done with this phase!

Hurray! You have now:

  • Read your entire story with a critical eye
  • Mapped out your story to track what happened when
  • Created a note file that lists the problems with each scene
  • Developed a to-do list to fix every problem
  • Pulled out the to-dos that require you to delete or completely rewrite scenes.

Now you’re ready to edit.

What comes next?

The first two editing phases are the biggest ones: the structural edit and the scene-by-scene edit. During them, you’re going to fix every single problem on your to-do list. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  1. First, we’re going to do the structural edit, which will include the big changes: deleting, rewriting, and other things that result in 100% new, never-seen-before text.
  2. Then we’ll see if we have any “floating” problems left–problems that we know we need to resolve, we just don’t know where. If they weren’t fixed in the structural edit, we’ll decide what specific chapter they should happen in.
  3. Then, using our to-do list, we’ll go through every scene in the story and fix all the issues we found.

Next week, we’re finally going to get to the first big lift: the structural editing phase. See you then!

 

Writing a novel feels great, doesn’t it? It’s so emotional! So engaging! (All right, well, it can be, when you don’t feel like you’re yanking ideas out of your brain with a pair of pliers.) But when you’re in the zone, everything you write feels powerful, important, and deep.

Then you edit it. And whoops! It’s… not. It’s clumsily worded, it doesn’t make much sense, and that scene you loved to absolute death feels shoehorned in. So you feel angry and maybe a little embarrassed, because it all felt so good at the time.

To nobody’s surprise, many writers hate editing.

But not me. I friggin’ LOVE editing. This is probably–just a guess here–why it’s also my day job.

So I thought I’d do a few posts about how I edit my novels and why, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t need to be a soul-crushing process.

First thing’s first: there are a lot of different types of edits.

I’m going to start with an observation about something a little different. Have you ever noticed that people who don’t write often think that writing is a single, monolithic skill? They figure that you are either “good at writing” or “bad at writing.” If you ask them what “writing” is, they’d probably think that it’s just the act of having an idea and writing it down. There are no other talents involved. Just have ideas. Be literate.

But when you write your first novels, you learn otherwise. “Writing a novel” involves dozens of completely separate skills. Writing dialogue, pacing logically, creating micro-tension, and developing realistic characters are all completely different talents. Some of them will come naturally. Some of them are really hard!

Editing is exactly the same.

There is no one, monolithic thing called “editing.” You cannot hand your piece to an editor, tell them to “edit it,” then walk off knowing you have explained everything about what you need them to do. There are many kinds of edits that do many different things. And some of these will be easier for you than others.

Editing will feel overwhelming if you think editing means “I’m going to sit down in front of a document and magically know whether every word, sentence, scene, and chapter is perfect.” Thankfully, you don’t have to.

It’s easiest to edit in phases, from the largest level of edit to the smallest.

In the editing world, there’s a thing called “levels of edit.” When you hand your work to an editor, they often want to know what level to edit it at, and that tells them what to look at and what to ignore. This isn’t standardized, so every organization has a different number of levels of edit, and those levels are called different things. So I’m not speaking out of authority here, OK? These are the levels of edits I think about when I’m doing my own novels. They’re not even the same ones I use at work.

But when I’m editing my novels, I come at them from several different angles:

  • Structural Edits: Structural edits look at concepts and how they are organized. A structural edit asks big questions: Do the events that occur happen in a logical sequence? Do characters act in a consistent way? Do details and concepts remain believable and consistent?
  • Scene-level Edits: Scene-level edits look at scenes. Does every scene have a purpose? Does every scene add information, build on the stakes, and do so in the most interesting way possible? Does each scene include some sort of micro-tension? Does each chapter end on an interesting, engaging note?
  • Line-level Edits: Line-level editing is the first level of edit that acutally deals with the words you used. Does every sentence communicate the meaning you want it to? Did you use the words you wanted to? Are you using words that literally convey the meaning you want them to (as opposed to words that sound lovely but don’t convey your intention as well?) This is when you remove fluff and look for opportunities to use stronger words and more active voice.
  • Proofreading: Proofreading is literally just looking for errors in grammar. You look for typos, punctuation, and spelling errors.

And–here’s the clincher–you can do these one at a time.

These steps go from big to small. They’re also in order. It doesn’t make sense to obsess about your word choice and fix all the typos in a scene you’re going to delete. You don’t want to agonizingly polish your dialogue before you come back and cut out a character.

That said: Do some people edit everything at once? Of course! And if that works for you, that’s totally fine.

But if editing seems complicated and intimidating, it can be very helpful to think of these as completely separate processes that you do one at a time.

And remember: you’ll probably need to practice these.

These are all completely different skills.

Structural editing is kind of like a college English class. You’ll be good at it if you’re good at critically reading content, challenging every assumption, and playing Devil’s advocate. (Since they know [this important thing], wouldn’t it make more sense for the characters to do [this]? Why wouldn’t this character do [that] when they’ve previously shown to believe [whatever]?) Line editing requires the ability to look at words critically, and to think about how they communicate meaning. Proofreading requires a strong knowledge of grammar.

And I’ve known authors with pristine grammar who struggle with pacing and authors who have aced scene-level tension and should have their semicolon button pried off their keyboards. We all have things that come more naturally to us and things we have to practice.

And that’s probably enough for one post!

This post is long enough, isn’t it? I’ll probably do a series on this.

But just remember: editing isn’t just the act of taking a first draft and just editing the whole thing, magically. There are many different kinds of edits that look at totally different things. And editing a novel–which is a huge and monumental task–can be broken up into different phases that look at different things.

And next time, maybe I’ll talk about how I do structural edits!