Thursday, February 2, 2012

Revising -vs- Re-Writing -vs- Editing

I'm hard at work with polishing up The Door to Justice, but I don't want to go too long between blog posts. So today, I'll talk about what's on my mind... the process of preparing a book for final publication.

A question occasionally arises in writing workshops about the difference between revising, re-writing, and editing.  These three things are all vital to putting out a quality manuscript, and while they may seem similar, each has its own place in the process.

Revising and re-writing are very, very similar.  Revising means going through your manuscript and adding things, subtracting things, and making changes to the existing work.  Changing the wording of a phrase or a paragraph doesn't constitute re-writing.  It falls firmly in the revising camp.  Adding a passage to flesh out a character, or adding to a paragraph, or even adding in new scenes, all qualify as revising.

Re-writing, however, implies tossing out entire sections and going back to outline or original idea.  Say there's a section, chapter, or even a large passage that you just aren't happy with.  Sometimes, you just have to toss out what you've done, examine what the intent is for that part of the story, and start over.  Maybe you revised something from an earlier part of the book, and the next chapter no longer fits with that.  In such a case, you might have to go back to your outline and make changes, and then write that part completely from scratch.

Editing actually encompasses several different things, depending on when and what you're editing.  There's what I consider general editing, which is always going on.  General editing is when you are looking for typos and grammatical errors, and correcting them.  I do this at every stage of the writing process.  But in addition to general editing, there's also content editing.

Editing for content is something I usually do in several stages. First, as I write my outlines, I go through and edit them on the fly, building the basic story until I'm satisfied that it's what I want it to be.  Then, after I've done a draft, my volunteer editors and I all read through what I've written, looking for inconsistencies and ways to make the story flow better.  This happens through several drafts of the book, and can encompass both revising and re-writing as part of it.

So, the difference between the three?  Revising is changing, adding to, and tweaking small parts, and/or adding sections.  Re-writing is scrapping something you've written and starting over.  And editing, the one that you might think sounds like the least of the three, actually encompasses the other two and adds the layer of looking for typos and grammar mistakes.

Confused yet?  Well, I'll boil it down a different way  What's the difference between the three?  Does it really matter?  As long as you're doing your best to tell your story the best way you can, making it flow well, and making sure there are as few errors (or none!) as possible, you're doing it right!