by Dori Harrell
You work hard for your author. You edit to catch every plot hole, to note lack of characterization, to reduce redundancies, to correct errors—to help your author craft the best story for his or her readers. But when you finish, do you dash off the completed manuscript to the author, or do you give it a rest before looking it over and sending it off?
Writers often hear that one of the best things they can do for their novels and nonfiction is to give them a rest before beginning revisions. I often give authors that advice myself, and I usually recommend a two- or three-week rest period for novels and long nonfiction projects and a week for novellas and short nonfiction. With my own novel writing, I find that rest period essential to my creative process—and to writing better stories for my readers.
I’ve also discovered it ups my editing game too.
Once I finish a manuscript now, whether it’s a content or line edit, copyedit, or proofread, I let the manuscript rest for a day or two (depending on the type of edit) before looking it over and delivering it to the author. I include rest days into my estimated delivery time, and as I approach the end of an edit, I send the author an update, noting the day I expect to complete the editing, the rest period, and the day I’ll look it over and send it. If I’m not quite sure of the day I’ll finish, then I give a close approximation.
While a manuscript reposes quietly in my online cloud, it tends to percolate in my mind. If my thoughts produce changes I want to suggest, I keep track of them in a Notes file. But I don’t open the manuscript again until I’ve had at least an entire day away from it. When possible, I even try to take a day off from editing. When not possible, I move on to a different type of project. For example, if the manuscript I just finished was a content or line edit, I’ll copyedit or proofread.
And it’s magical when I click on the rested-up file again and skim every page. Though I’m not performing an intense edit at this stage, I’m able to zero in on elements in need of correcting, overexplaining that can be deleted, comments I want to expand on for clarity, helpful plot or character revisions, and so forth. I incorporate my rest-period notes, run the manuscript through my final checklist, and zip if off with complete confidence that I’ve done the best job possible.
I now consider that short rest stop as essential to my editing process as I do my writing process. What finishing-up tip do you consider vital to your editing style?
Dori Harrell owns Breakout Editing and edits full time. As an editor, she releases more than twenty-five books annually. Her client list includes indie authors, best-selling writers, and publishers. She also serves as a senior editor for an editing agency. An award-winning writer, she’s published more than a thousand articles. She recently released her first novel, A Christmas Hallelujah.