Philosophy of Editing: Thinking it Through

thinker-Mary Harrsch

You don’t have to think when you write, but you have to think about EVERYTHING when you edit!
Photo by Mary Harrsch

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I studied philosophy in college, not English or creative writing. Many writers who know already know they want to be writers while they’re in college tend to go for writing-based majors like literature, creative writing, journalism, or whatever you get with an English major. However, philosophy is actually a very strong writing-based major as well, though it tends to be focused on arguments, critiques, and position papers instead of fiction.

I like to talk about having studied philosophy because I like to prove the naysayers wrong that it’s a “dead-end” major. If you know me at all, you know I’m not an idiot. I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. So, while philosophy may not be a popular choice among parents with college-age kids or employers, it can be a great choice for the student. It has served me well both professionally and personally, but it’s also been a big help in my writing and editing projects.

My current edit-in-progress

The logic and analytical skills I honed while studying philosophy are coming in SUPER handy as I go through the editing process! I’m finding it so much easier not only to pick out plot and timeline inconsistencies, but also to find where fiction needs to be adjusted for fact.

For example, Chapter Two needed a lot of work. My awesome beta readers had pointed out a couple of confusing things in the chapter, and since I have been reworking some of the science fiction aspects of the story as I go through it, a few changes to some of the existing statements about it were necessary.

In Chapter Two, one of my characters is basically demonstrating the technology introduced in Chapter One. However, because I changed how I wanted the technology to work, I needed to rewrite parts of Chapter Two to be consistent with the new implementation and functionality of the technology.

However, while going through the chapter, I realized that some other details were also a problem. First of all, I stated that my character was getting on a plane to Fort Lauderdale, FL to meet an FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) officer. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, because there are other airports closer to the FDLE headquarters in Tallahassee. (Despite being the capital, my research tells me that city’s airport is a regional airport and my character is arriving from New York.)

Furthermore, I realized that the focus of the chapter is on the capture of a fugitive, something that the US Marshal Service would typically be in charge of, not the state law enforcement. I didn’t want to change the FDLE character, so I reworked it to make the Marshal Service a part of the search without making them the direct point of contact for my character.

While being a good reader and writer probably helps me just as much as having a background in logic and critical analysis, I feel like those additional skills help me to work through the story more efficiently. Without them, I might not have picked up on the fugitive capture issue until I’d been through another two or three rounds of editing, if at all. It’s sort of a small detail that not every reader might notice, but logical failures have become a huge writing pet peeve of mine in the past few years, no matter what genre.

Editing progress

I thought I was finished with Chapter Two, but after rewriting some of it, I realized I still had to go back and tweak a couple things in Chapter One that were now inconsistent. But, I am now done with the second draft of the first two chapters! Considering how stuck I felt just a couple weeks ago, it’s great to be making progress like this.

Accomplishments

  • Backstory added for two characters in Chapter One
  • Rewrote technical details in Chapter Two
  • Pinned down inconsistencies between Chapters One and Two
  • Added 1,000+ words to each chapter

Writing

Rewriting is writing, right? Other than beefing up the edit-in-progress and putting together the occasional blog post, I haven’t been writing anything new. I haven’t (and probably won’t) get back to my Camp Nano July project any time soon, but I expected that.

However, I did have an amazing insight into a key plot point on my November Nano project. I still haven’t sat down and worked out an outline or anything for that story, but I continue to fill in the gaps and consider the story in my spare moments. In any case, I’ve still got about 7 weeks til Nano starts!

Don’t forget!

If you want to get in on the beta reading process for the new book, take a look at the blurb, check out what type of feedback I’m looking for, and contact me if you’re interested.

Keep up with my TBR Challenge progress!

View all my previous reviews

(Most of) My TBR Pile

The Kite Runner
Jurassic Park
Pronto
Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972
The Brothers Karamazov
Waiting for Godot
Only Revolutions
Brideshead Revisited
The Help
Doctor Sleep
Timeline
The Terminal Man
The Tommyknockers
Gerald's Game
Rose Madder
Selections from Skeleton Crew
Cold Mountain
Gone Bamboo
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum


Comments

  1. as a writer and editor I am constantly tweeking my editing process to catch as much as possible for my authors. My writing process hasn’t changed nearly as much.

    best with the book

    • My editing process for my own work has just been to read through the piece as many times as it takes until I can’t find anything else that absolutely needs to be changed. It worked pretty well for typos and grammar and things like that, but it meant I wasn’t as thorough on story defects.

      Since I’ve had some feedback and reviews for my books, it’s given me a better perspective on the sorts of things I really need to devote more time to. It’s challenging to look for those things in your own writing, but like anything else, I think it’s something that will improve with practice! Still, even if you can learn to look for some of these irregularities and issues in your own writing, somebody else will always be able to point out what you missed or where you still managed to go off-course. So, having beta readers who are on the same page as I am has been so helpful!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and thanks for the positive wishes! I’m making good progress with the book so far! Just hope I can keep it up!

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