Keep Your Focus with an Editing List

I recently received my edits for my July book, Reunited with the Cowboy, the first book in my new Heroes of Shelter Creek series. The first thing I did was write an editing list.

Why? Because every time I get edits, I feel a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things to notice and decide about. If an editor changes a sentence, does it still sound like me? Does it still work with the character’s voice? What was I really trying to say there?

But this time around, the sense of overwhelm is a little more intense because my line edits and copy edits all showed up in the same document! Here is a screen shot from one of the pages I am dealing with. And there are 375 pages! Not all pages are so heavily edited, but still, it’s a lot, and I always worry that in all the detail, I will miss some of the big picture stuff that I want to make sure I conveyed in the book.

copy and line edit image

But, what do I do when I’m overwhelmed? I make a to-do list!
So that’s what I did, right away. This story was with the editors for over a month, so I had lots of time to think about it. During that time, I jotted down some worries and ideas. Then, I turned these into an editing list of goals, questions and things that I want to make sure I look at as I go through these edits.

For this book, here are some of the things on my editing list:

• Do we understand why Caleb never contacted Maya? (The idea that his emotions were so tangled, they were almost like a storm he was unwilling to even enter. And that his family never expressed emotion so he had no tools for dealing with his feelings.)

• Do we understand why Maya went into the wilderness to work and rarely came out? And how that life was such a solace to her, an escape from the pain and guilt of the accident.

• Is there closure with Grandma about leaving Shelter Creek? There has to be some kind of conversation, because Grandma clearly wants her there.

• Is it really clear what Maya is thinking when it all falls apart? And have I built up to this enough so it won’t feel out of the blue?

• Description: Do I really put people into the setting or do I need to add a few words here and there to enhance it? Will they get enough of a sense of the town? The ranch? The general location?

I have several more goals, but as you can see, even though I’m doing the edits, my mind is still on the quality of the storytelling. This is my absolute last chance to convey this story to the readers, to try to make them see what I see. To help them feel what I feel.

And even though I can’t make big changes to the story in this round of edits, that’s not really what’s needed to accomplish these goals. This is about slipping in an extra word or two, or fine-tuning a sentence, to really convey the emotion and meaning of this complicated and heartfelt book. It’s about making sure I take advantage of every step in the writing process to make this happens.

So if you write, and you find your edits overwhelming, I strongly urge you to give this a try. Make a list of what you want from the editing process, before you jump into the edits. I guarantee it will make your story stronger!

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