How to edit: a pictorial guide

Before I can finish my next novel, I have to make some changes to the first 70 000 words (which, unfortunately, weren’t working very well). Such a task can be overwhelming, so this is what you do.

1. Go to a location far away from phone and internet where you will feel guilty if you don’t work.



2. Write down a one-line summary of each scene in the story, as it stands, on a file card.




3. Arrange the file cards in chapters on a large surface (like a luxury king-size bed) so you can get a bird’s eye view the whole story, or at least the chapters that need attention. Now stop and think for a bit. What needs to be cut? What needs to be inserted (make a note of inserts on different coloured cards)? What scenes need to be combined or moved? Here is some thinking music…


4. Now make a list in your notebook of all those fixes. Make sure there are check boxes next to every point! Colour-code them if you want it to look super purty.




5. Transfer the list onto your computer copy, make a note (using “comments” in Word) wherever something needs to be done. Sometimes it will be a simple tweak, sometimes it will be a big fix. The example at the left shows that I need two new scenes and a bit of rewriting in a third scene. You might have dozens of notes to start with. As you complete the notes, you delete them. The number of notes decreases in a pleasing fashion.



6. Added fun can be had by ticking the check-boxes in your notebook!


5 thoughts on “How to edit: a pictorial guide

  1. This sounds like a pretty bright idea… usually I wait till I’ve written the whole thing before I go back and do anything like this though; the whole adding and taking and rearranging scenes.

    Then again, BEFORE I start writing something big, I usually make dot-point plans of the chapters… they may as well be full sentences, they aren’t short dot-points! I guess I could always do this in addition to what I already do. I sure can’t see the harm in it!

    • yes, bonnee, i plan ahead too. but sometimes we have to be flexible as well as decisive. i’m hoping it’s full steam ahead a while now!

  2. Sometimes what you need comes along at the right time. Am stalled with my current work, and then I read your blog and find this brilliant editing idea! Exactly what I need to do, to be able to ‘see’ the story progression.

    Thank you for sharing that Kim! Great stuff.

    best wishes,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s