Want to be a better editor?

Every once in a while, I like to take time out of our normal schedule to ask you, dear reader, what you would like to learn about.

What do you hate most about editing

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to focus more on what your biggest challenges are, specifically, your biggest challenges with the editing process.

If you could take three minutes to tell me what you’re having a hard time with editing-wise, it would make my day. I’ll be able to use your response to create new lessons and exercises that will specifically solve your problem.

Tell me what your biggest editing challenge is here »

Thank you for your help!

P.S. Still want to practice your writing today? Check out our best creative writing exercises and prompts here.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • My biggest editing challenge is making sure my characters have a distinct voice, and knowing how to tweak a draft to ensure they do.

    Writing practice (scene 3 of part 1 of a story I posted here a few weeks ago that is growing into a novel):

    Cassidy is reading when when Dr. Dennis Crow comes in and slams his bag down. “Another day of deliberation? Another day of deliberation?!”

    Cassidy takes deep breathes to keep himself from overreacting to Dr. Crow’s outbursts. He never reacted well to yelling, regardless of who the yelling was directed at. As he sets down his book and takes a few more deep breathes, Dr. Crow continues: “Can you believe Jibenne has to wait another day to see if the human rights’ commission will go through?”

    Cassidy shakes his head, and looks down. “I can’t but I have to. I hope they rule in his favour. Otherwise this will be third tribunal to go in favour of the employer.”

    “You mean the third time this month? Last month it was eigh tribunals, and all of them went in favour against the poor chap or chappess.” Dr. Crow sat down hard on the chair nearest him, and Cass could tell he sat down hard because he could hear the wood crack.

    “We need to fight this, Cass. We cannot let those people oppress those with mental illness and mental disorders under the guise of ‘helping’ them.”

    Cassidy blinked at Dr. Crow. “Do you mean fight, as in violently fight? Or fight as in protesting fight?”

    “Why are you raising your voice while asking that? Is your hearing off?”

    Cass’ face turned red, and he covered his mouth. “Apologies, sir. Voice tone is always difficult for me to understand. I can hear you, and I am not angry.”

    “No worries, son. But if I do not point it out, you will not be able to revise.”

    Cass smiles and nods. “I do appreciate your assistance, like I did when I was enrolled in social training. It is annoying to still be inhibited by the basics.”

    Dr. Crow held up his hand. “The basics for people like me are only basic because we understand the language. Believe me, if things were reversed the ‘basics’ would be all Greek to me as they are for you.”

    Cass sighed. How many times does my psychiatrist HAVE to remind me? he thinks to himself. It’s the one thing he hated about having autism- Sometimes people on his side did not know when to stop being on his side. Only people, like his husband Jibenne, allowed him to breathe a little.

    As if right on cue, his husband entered the doorway and made a beeline for where Cass was sitting. He snuggled into Cass’ chest and did not greet Dr. Crow. Cass looked up apologetically: “Sorry, Dr. Crow, Jibenne’s day was rough.”

    The psychiatrist nodded with a smile. “I understand. Though, Cass, you can call me Dennis outside of the office.”

    What if I do not want to call you Dennis? Cass cannot help but think as Dr. Crow excused himself to use the restroom. True, Dr. Crow is an amazing psychiatrist and has been an excellent advocate for autism for the last 20 years, it was still easier for Cass to have one name for everybody. Well, unless it was Jibenne. Then he had several names for him: Dear, Love, Jib, handsome, and sexy always came out of his mouth periodically when he and Jibenne were conversing.

    He looked down at Jibenne and spoke softly: “Are you alright, love?”

    Jibenne shook his head. His voice was very muffled when he spoke, as his mouth was still buried in his lover’s shirt, “Another aid of my attorney called me Ashley. Again.”

    Cass held his husband closer as he started to cry. “She also would not stop looking me in the eye- how many times must I ask for it before other people respect my request.”

    “I’m sorry, love,” Cass answered. “Should we try and find another lawyer?”

    Jib shook his head against Cass’ red buttoned up shirt. “No point in doing so until after the trial; and she fired that aid too.”

    “Good,” Cass answered quickly, “though I fail to understand how such an open woman hired such bigots.”

    “It would be bad for her to screen people with such questions,” Jibenne explained, “and even if she did, they would not answer truthfully. Hopefully at the meeting things will go smoothly.”

    “We do not have to stay,” Cass whispered, “if you are not up for it. Remember that, dear.”

    Jib glanced up to his husband: “I will be alright, love. It has been 4 hours between the trial and now, so I can survive staying here with you.”

    They waited about 30min for the rest of the members to get here. The president, Orick Von, opened it up with a few announcements: “We have been able to fundraise enough money to go to Ottawa, and form a peaceful protest on Parliament Hill. Hopefully the Prime Minister and his government will do something to better aid our community. The second announcement,” Orick continues after clearing his throat, “is the continuing tribunal for Jib. Since Cassidy and Jib have been long standing members, we need to ensure the magistrates understand our position loud and clear. Tomorrow, during the deliberation, I propose we hold a rally at the Ontario legislature, and hold a protest outside the Human Rights Commission’s HQ. Agreed?”

    Many people nodded. Cass spoke, “I have my last exam tomorrow, so I will join outside of OHRC’s place as soon as I can.”

    Orick looked to Cass, but not directly at him for he knew Cass did not being looked in the eye because of autism. “Excellent. And congrats on almost being completed- we need more psychiatrists like you in the field.”

    Orick looked at the clock and then walked away- it was time to take his medication. Cass rubbed Jib’s arm as they waited for Orick to come back. When he did he was drinking a bottle of water. “Now, the real reason we are all gathered: I am going to be brutally honest with everyone, and say the magistrates are not going to rule in Jibenne’s favour. At best, they will dismiss the case. At worst, they will rule in the favour of his employer. This will be the twelf to thirteenth time in a matter of months where employers are given a free pass to discriminate against the mentally ill and disordered community.”

    A lady spoke- “I hate those terms- mentally ill, insane, disordered… They are labels given to us by those who have no comprehension of mental illness.”

    Dr. Crow stood up and stated, “You know that is not true, Andrea. While it is true I was never diagnosed, I do strive to comprehend on a daily basis what you are going through. The same can be said of many other mental health professionals.”

    Andrea crossed her arms, and narrowed her eyes at Dr. Crow: “Yet, you still seem to correct Cassidy for the little ways autism has shaped him to respond to the world? Perhaps we should try to do the same to you and show how it feels.”

    Jibenne, who almost never speaks at these meetings, protested, “Leave him alone, Andrea! He has backed us on many occasions. So what if he insists my autism never shows at all, we still should value allies like him. Besides, making them learn how it feels will turn the oppressed into the oppressor. I don’t want to be an oppressor. I just want a job where autism does not get me fired.”

    Cass looked down at his husband with a small smile. He muttered, “Be nice if his gender dysphoria didn’t lead to oppression.”

    Jillian, a transwoman who was just starting to get on estrogen, placed a hand tentatively on Jib’s shoulder. “We all share your sentiments, Jib, but I fail to see how the government and society at large gives any other alternative. They are the ones turning a blind eye to discrimination.”

    Dr. Crow turned to Jillian: “Indeed. You are looking more like a woman each day, and yet it is still not enough to discourage others from discriminating. I will write more well-worded letters to many employers, and various pride communities, for this blatant hypocrisy.”

    Jillian stiffened at his words- Sure, she appreciated his voice of approval. However, she is not taking the hormones because she is turning into a woman, but she is a woman going through hormone replacement therapy because she was born in the wrong body. While Jillian was almost positive Dr. Crow did not mean to imply former, it still came out that way. Jillian traces a finger around her hand to keep her anxiety down, and whispered so low no one could here, “He is not the enemy… He is not the enemy… He is not the enemy…”

    Jib looks up from where his head was buried in Cass’ chest and gave Jillian a sympathetic look. He knows too well what those kind of comments implied, and last time they were directed at him was one of the days his meltdown was horrible. Jillian smiled his way and nodded- They’ll talk later.

    Orick glanced around the room at the people- Some were already starting to fidget, others were focusing on their distraction because they were going through a manic phase, while others were taking medication. All of these people deemed “disordered” and “ill” by a society who had no desire to actually help them get better, or welcome them as members. It disgusted Orick and as president of the Time to Listen Sociey he needed to find a way to help people all over the city.

    He speaks, “Excuse me all of you, I have a few phone calls to make. Jillian, can you collect the dues?”

    The 6 foot tall brunette nodded, and quickly walked around. Orick went to his office and picked up the phone. It was time to call their branches in Washington, London, and other major cities across Western countries.

  • Sana Damani

    My challenge is restructuring my plot.

    Here’s my writing process:
    1. find an idea
    2. start writing
    3. once I’m done writing, i think about how the plot should actually have been structured (which scene in what order etc)
    4. here’s where I have trouble: fitting in the story I wrote into the plan I formed in step 3.

    I should probably plan before writing but I like to claim “art doesn’t work that way” 🙂

    • I’m with you. With the manuscript I’ve been working on for 4 years, I actually rewrote it three times. Editing can be a complicated thing 🙂

      • Sana Damani

        You must have amazing perseverance. I can’t imagine working on a story for that long without getting sick of it.

        • Thanks Sana 🙂 I know the Lord gave this to me, so I’m going to finish it. It’s been an awesome journey, so I guess that’s why I’m not sick of it 🙂

    • rosie

      There are books and YouTube videos about how to learn structure in writing. (I struggle with that too!) Check out videos with Roz Morris in them: she explains it wonderfully. They’re usually a bit long (hour-long interviews) but it helps to get her perspective. She makes it sound so simple and intuitive, which makes it easier to apply in your own stories.

    • rosie

      Here’s a link to a good interview:

      Anything with Roz Morris in it will probably help.

  • Coming up with the story is easy, (I have ten stories floating in my mind). Creating characters is super easy, (my favorite part of writing.) Plot is a little difficult, but not as hard as it may seem. Line editing, specifically grammar and punctuation, are a piece of cake. It’s the big picture that is a problem for me. If, when I start editing, I find an inconsistency, or something I would like to change, it creates a chain reaction that turns into a major re-write. Also, I have the hardest time knowing if my story is enough of what it should be. Is there enough plot, enough drama, enough action. It’s the inner perfectionist that makes editing the hardest.

    • rosie

      Outlines help you with the big picture. Many people don’t like the idea of outlines, but they help you see your story from a bird’s eye view. And when you have to do an edit, you don’t have to throw out thousands of words of prose. It’s just a rough idea in the outline.
      I also find that in outlines, I see the scene in my head, so I just write out the dialogue (since that’s one of my stronger points.) And then when I convert to writing the actual prose, I can copy and paste into the prose document.
      Is there enough drama?
      Well, it’s best to choose the character best for the situation. Does the task involve swimming? Make them afraid of water. Is it a romance? Make them afraid of intimacy. If there’s internal and external conflict, it makes the tension wonderful (and the happy ending even sweeter.) We root for your character when they try a thousand times and fail. We root for them because they tried. (Most stories involve a protagonist chasing a goal of some sort.) It just looks like the prose would be easy for you, so you might not need to work on that very much: it’s just the bigger picture that needs more of your attention.
      Here’s a video on Jenna Moreci’s way to outline, and Roz Morris talking about drama, depth and heart in your stories.

  • EndlessExposition


    • rosie

      Obviously, there’s a beginning, middle and end. Characters always have to go through change: by the end of the story, we should’ve felt significant change. And there has to be conflict, even if it’s just mum and daughter arguing about which colour dress to wear.
      It all depends on your story.
      Choose the most interesting character for your situation: if the task involves swimming, choose someone afraid of water.
      Many people don’t like outlining, but try an outline. It helps you see the bigger picture of your story before you actually put the prose down. That way, if you hate something, you don’t have to throw away thousands of words of prose. It’s just a rough idea in the outline, and frees you up to come up with better ideas. An outline doesn’t really limit creativity: it actually gives you more freedom. (And guess what? If you don’t like the outline, you’re the writer. Change it!)
      Some people like to begin from the ending, because in a romance they’re always going to get together. So write backwards. Plotting linearly is a nightmare! I’m an artist as well as a writer–so think of the outline as a compositional sketch.
      Here’s a link to an interview with Roz Morris (she explains it well.)
      And then Jenna Moreci makes great videos on that sort of thing.

      • rosie

        Here’s a link to Jenna Moreci.

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