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(C)2000 BK Reeves/EDITING/A Process

I suggest you write your first draft as if it were the final version of your manuscript. You realize you’ll have to rewrite, but pretend you won’t. Format your pages: double spaced, headers left top, page numbering right top, left justification only. In other words, turn right justification off. (This makes the spacing between words correct.) Whatever format you choose, be consistent. Don’t leave such details until later. In a novel of 100,000 words, such “catch-up” items will weigh you down.


Many writers do not proofread their first draft. They turn their internal editor off, preferring to push on to the end. These are the authors who do not write from a complete synopsis. They start with characters, situation, goal, motivation and conflict (GMC), discovering the story as they write.

If do you want to proof as you go, print out the pages you’ve written and carry them around. Copy edit every word, then insert the changes into your text. This is probably how you will do all your edits or revisions, whether self-imposed, or at the (Oh, joy!) request of an editor.

Before submitting, in your second, third and fourth drafts, you will look for passive sentences, awkward sentences, unnecessary words or phrases (mainly prepositional phrases), commas that separate or splice, paragraphing, names and pronouns, dialogue, dialogue tags, dialogue punctuation, verbs that agree with their subjects, pronouns that agree with their antecedents.

Look for adjectives and adverbs that aren’t needed, sentence patterns (vary these). Make certain you have the exact word in mind, connotative as well as denotative. You are eliciting emotion here. Use the exact words needed to do that. Notice tone and mood. Know what you are trying to achieve, the purpose of every sentence, paragraph, scene. If you do all this, you will be writing tight.

Last, you might read your fiction aloud to yourself. Make certain the prose you’ve created is seamless, that each line scans. As in poetry, each sentence should have perfect scansion, stressed words, natural pauses, exciting accents, satisfying measures and phrasings, a sense of crescendo and diminuendo, a rising and falling cadence. Short staccato sentences should be juxtaposed against the swelling harmony of longer sentences. In short, make it as good as you can for now.

Remember your target: The reader is the consumer of your product. Genre is everything. Raise reader expectations and then fulfill them. Above all, give him/her a really enjoyable read.#

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