How I Edited My Fifth Draft (And What I Learned)


February 16, 2017


   I finished editing the fifth draft of my novella, Killing Snow, last night around 9:30. I was going to name this post Why I Now Hate My Story. But that seemed harsh. So here we are with How I Edited My (*cough* horrendous *cough*) Fifth Draft.

header image for How I Edited My Fifth Draft

I started by gathering the info from beta readers that I still hadn't analyzed.


   After that, I was very tempted to hide in a hole for the rest of my days. My story was still a wreck (this is a fifth draft, already-been-torn-apart-and-mended-by-beta-info story we're talking about), and I didn't know what to do next.

   This edit was doubly complicated though, because I wasn't editing it to polish it. I was editing it in preparation to tear it apart again and turn it into a novel in April (seriously though - who even does that? Apparently me.). All that said, only parts of it needed editing: the parts that would survive the bulldozing in April.

   That being as it was, I went through all my notes (multiple times) and figured out which stuff needed to be done during this fifth draft edit. I ended up with three things that needed doing: finish editing the story according to Emily Drown's beta notes (I hadn't finished with her's yet), fix some typos that needed it, and use the Hemingway editor to cut some of the adverbs that I had overused (read: splattered very, very liberally throughout the story).

   This involved two run-throughs of the story. The first time, I edited the whole thing according to what Emily Drown had noted. The second time through, I replaced adverbs and tweaked any words that needed it - which actually took longer than I thought it would. It took about twenty minutes to half an hour to edit one chapter, unless I was moving pretty fast. It turned out to be pretty fun, except for the fact that now I low-key hate the messy story-thing. Someday this will be fixed xD.

picture of a fountain pen and notebook

So that's all well and good - but what did I learn?

   *promptly brings out the trusty list*

1. You don't need to cut ALL the adverbs.


   Adverbs are the bane of my writer-ly existence and honestly? I still don't know what to do about them. I went into the adverb-cutting process with the words KILL THEM ALL banging around in my brain (okay, so "kill them all" was what I was saying about most of my words at the moment because I was low-key hating the story, but never mind that.). Turns out ... that's definitely not the best idea. You need adverbs in your story. Sometimes there were places where they could have been cut, but I left them. Why? Because that piece of the story actually sounded better with the adverbs. It mostly depends on how you feel about the piece - could it be better with a stronger description? Cut the adverb. Does it just sound stinted without it? Leave it there. Do what makes it read best, but don't "kill them all" xD.

2. Realism is actually important.


   Well, duh. Even fantasy writers know this - but I have bits in my story where my version of "real" was just awkward. For instance, in one part of my story (I can't elaborate because spoilers) my character had to take a few steps back to test something out. I had her take ten steps back, and then had it pointed out as being kind of awkward. And then I laughed and myself (and mentally smacked myself) for not realizing how odd it would be to have my character walking back ... farther ... farther - when really, one or two steps would have been just find. Watch out for exaggerating when you can simplify.

3. Your story isn't finished yet


mock cover image for Killing Snow
   I put off this draft of Killing Snow for a long time because I may have been mentally freaking out about it. How much should I edit? Just a little, or do I need to go the whole mile and act like I'm trying to publish the novella? Do I need to fix everything this time around? (of course the perfectionist monster in me reared up and roared YES YOU HAVE TO, but I think I defeated it. This time, anyways xD).
   But then I remembered that this is not the end of my editing. I was planning on this being the last time I'd look at this story, not at all! So to limit my insanity (not that I know how well this actually worked), I picked only a few things to fix. And it helped a ton. I fixed only the things that need fixing right now, not the things that can be fixed after the April bulldozing.           
   I can't be the only one who gets a little dizzy just thinking about how much still needs to be fixed in my story - but it helps a ton to take it piece-by-piece (or three pieces). It must, because (somehow) I didn't go nuts during this fifth edit :D.

   But, all rambling aside - the most important thing I figured out is that the story isn't finished yet. The perfectionist monster in me wants it all done, all perfect, all now. But the realism in me says "that's insane. Do it right." Which means not doing it all at once. It would probably kill me (and I think my sisters want me to stick around, just saying), and I'd be so exhausted by the end that my editing skills would get sloppy. I can't be all done now - or I'd regret it later.

   Editing is tough (my sore fingers and fried brain can attest to this), but way worth it in the end.    

~ Savannah Grace

   What draft is your story in right now? What's the hardest part of editing for you? What have you learned through editing?

29 comments :

  1. "That's insane. Do it right." <-- yes though really. I must remember this.

    I had an /epic/ writing day yesterday. I managed to get out 5k words, and was so super happy with myself because I had previously only been getting 1-2k per day. And then I remembered something - that morning, I'd prayed and committed all my story (word count, chapter number, everything) to the Lord. And it wasn't because of what I'D done that day, it was because God answered my prayer and ACK, I still can't get over it. It was just so amazing. :D

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    1. I have to tell myself that ALL. THE. TIME xD. (especially when I want to throw my book in the air and shout OKAY I'M DONE WE'RE SELF-PUBLISHING NOW, NEVER MIND EDITING. Because that is insane and would ruin me xD)

      Oh my good gracious - that's SO EPIC, Jane! *all the ice cream* It's always really cool to see what happens when we dedicate our work to God.

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  2. I'm supposed to be in the editing, reading and revising right now (I did NanoWrimo in November) but it's not really happening. I need to take it one step at a time instead of looking at the huge work I have to do to get it published. xD

    BTW, this might seem like a weird question but was is Beta? I'm kind of new to the writing journey for the most part. ;)

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    1. A beta reader is someone who reads drafts and reviews them and asks questions.

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    2. Ooh, you did NaNoWriMo? That's awesome, I love the NaNo events so much <3. What's your username on the site?

      Yup, basically what Gray said :D. I sent all my beta readers a copy of Killing Snow, and they read it, then gave me notes on what could be changed and stuff like that :).

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    3. OK. Thanks, Gray!!

      Savannah, I did the young Nano Wrimo (there is no way I can write 50,000 words in one month xD) but I might do the real Nano Wrimo this November. ;) That's really cool!!

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  3. I'm sure it's going to be awesome in the end! I can't wait to read it, hang in there!!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Gray! I'll definitely keep working ;).

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  4. Um... wow. My notes required a whole half-draft? o.o Wow... I feel really bad right now. I guess, sorry? I don't really know what to say. :P I hope they were at least helpful notes! (one of my biggest fears when critiquing is that it will come across that I didn't like the story when in reality, I really did.)

    Don't worry, Savannah, your story is getting there! Each draft is an improvement, right? And you have a bunch of us to encourage you on how awesome and epic Killing Snow is. *pumps fists*

    YOU CAN CONQUER THIS, YOU AMAZING WRITER-EDITOR-GIRL. :D You've poured your heart and soul into this - how can something not eventually turn out well when Savannah Perran pours her heart and soul into it? ;)

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    1. NO, don't feel bad - your notes were amazing! They helped the story a ton, and they were super fun to go through ;). (same here - but you were fine xD. I'm SO GLAD that you like Killing Snow!)

      It certainly is (even if my brain gets fried each time I edit xD)! And YES, I would never have kept working on the story without all of you guys *all the hugs*.

      THANK YOU SO MUCH, YOU EPIC PERSON. I'm so excited to see where this story goes :D. You're amazing!

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  5. These are some really good points. I myself just finished with my fourth draft of a novel I've been working on for a while, and honestly, I am excited to edit/rewrite it again because of how much I know I can improve. XD

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    1. Thank you, Evangeline ;). Ooh, a fourth draft? THAT'S AWESOME *highfive*. We're so close to being at the same place in our drafts! :D

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  6. THIS IS AN AWESOME POST. Sometimes, I think writers learn the most about writing through editing. For me, I had to rewrite the middle 50% of my book like a dozen times :P But it taught me a ton about scene structure and how EDITING TAKES TIME.

    Thank you for this reminder. YOU CAN DO IT. GO CONQUER.

    <3

    audrey caylin

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    1. THANK YOU, AUDREY! :D Yes, there is SO MUCH to be learned through editing - a lot of the hard stuff that I've had to figured out was learned while editing ;).

      THANK YOU - AND SO CAN YOU! *highfive* <3

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  7. I wouldn't know how ANYONE could hate Killing Snow, even low-key, but I understand what's it's like to want to throw your story in a campfire and forget about it, so I can't blame you.

    You always have such good insights into writings and editing! I love your attitude towards this passion called storytelling. You really encourage me.

    Aw, this is gonna be worth it, Savannah! PEOPLE NEED TO READ THIS STORY. (I want more Cerulean fans to fangirl with! ;-) )
    Can I mention again how much your story blessed me? Push threw this, crazy author girl, I believe you can do it!

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    1. The author most definitely can - the author gets lots of privileges xD. And yes, I'm definitely having those 'throw the story in a blazing fire' feelings, but I'm trying not to ACTUALLY burn it ;).

      Thank you so much! I'm glad I could encourage you, friend. <3

      YOU'RE THE BEST, HANNA - I'm so happy that you like Killing Snow that much :,). You're such an encouragement to me!

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    2. Thanks, so is Cerulean. :)

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  8. You make very good points! :) And I totally agree, a well-placed adverb can go a looooong way. Of course, it's important to not go overboard either.
    Realism IS SO important! I find myself having to be constantly reminded of this. I'm ALWAYS exaggerating when it's not necessary.
    I love the last tip best. Because it really isn't finished. I've been trying (and failing, in my opinion XD) to edit my own novels, but I'm such a perfectionist, I get easily discouraged. And you're not alone in being dizzy with all the things that need fixing. XD My novel is splattered with plot holes and unnecessary filler. But it's good to remember that it's not finished yet. ;)
    Great post, Savannah! <3

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    1. I've been much more sensitive to adverbs in the books I've been reading lately - and when I run across one, I often analyze to it to figure out what makes it work there xD.

      Perfectionists unite! It's SO HARD to write a story when you're a perfectionist, I can totally relate. But doing it piece by piece helps me a TON. (and I try desperately not to think about ALL THE THINGS that need to be done - because then I REALLY want to throw it in a fire xD)

      Glad you enjoyed it! <3

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  9. AHHH THIS THIS THIS. JUST. YESSSS. *hugs this post* I think that's the biggest thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to editing - it doesn't have to be perfect yet. You can write another draft. You WILL write another draft. You'll write a bunch of drafts, and they'll get better each time, until you'll have a shining work of art. But that shining work of art takes a loooot of time and polishing.

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    1. EEP - THANK YOU, Hannah! I have SUCH a problem with that, but it's true. Your draft won't be perfect . I don't know how I'm still living, being both a perfectionist and a writer!
      "a loooot of time and polishing". OH yes. Very true. Sadly xD.

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  10. Okay, I am just so, so, soooo proud of you! And in awe. I've been writing for some, oh, 15ish years? And I have NEVER gotten to the FIFTH draft of a story! I've hardly made it to 2nd drafts. o.o YOU ARE SO DEDICATED AND AWESOME.

    And you made some amazing points! Adverbs can definitely be used, and actually can be GOOD, sometimes. I think we forget that because it's so constantly drilled in our brains that ADVERBS MUST BURN. DON'T USE THEM. THEY'RE EVIL. But, nooo. Use them!, Just conservatively, I say!

    And realism, yes! It's way too easy to fall into over-exaggerations while writing. I don't know why. I mean, fiction sometimes supposed to be dramatized? So I guess that's why, but it's all in moderation. *nods*

    "Your story isn't finished yet" <--THIS. YES. I have to remind myself this ALL. THE. TIME. I can still go back and edit, nothing is set in stone. It's all about taking it one step at a time, and not being overwhelmed.

    Basically, YES TO EVERYTHING YOU SAID. I love this post!

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    1. EEP, CHRISTINE. Thank you for being such an encouragement, girl! <3 *all the hugs* I wouldn't be half as dedicated without all of you here to keep me going xD.

      Realism, oh goodness. My characters do such unrealistic things ... and then I go back through the story and basically die, looking at all of the superhuman thing my very-human characters are doing xD.

      My dramatic side is constantly screaming " it must be done now or else the world shall collapse around our heads! " - while my realistic side says that really isn't the case xD.

      Thanks for reading, Christine! ;)

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  11. WOW YOUR FIFTH DRAFT?!?!?! I'm on.... My second. And yes, don't kill the adverbs or adjectives-they aren't necessarily villains if used in moderation. And realism is super important, something I need to remember.. =)

    The hardest part of editing is GETTING IT DONE. I have to sit myself down and DO IT.

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    1. Well, it has been almost a year since I started this story ;). Adverbs are especially hard for me because sometimes I've found around fifteen of them on the same page - which is HIGHLY excessive - and then I have to choose which ones to delete xD.

      YES DO IT. I want to read your stories so bad :D.

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  12. This was an awesome, enlightening post on the world of editing! Most of the time I first draft but never bring myself to editing, but I am planning to do so late this year or early next year. One thing that really scares me is that it's never final when it comes to editing, but I'm more open to editing now as I see that you and other blogging writers are taking editing into their own hands <3

    - Andrea at A Surge of Thunder

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    1. Thank you, Andrea! This story (Killing Snow) is the only one that has gone through multiple edits - mostly because I'm hoping to get it published in 2018/2019 ;).

      I definitely agree that editing not being final is scary. Me being a perfectionist, I tend to want to get it ALL DONE in one go - and editing isn't like that. But I think I'm learning ;). I'm so glad that all of us writers can be an encouragement t0 you! <3

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  13. This is so great!! And your wisdom with editing is very very admirable! I went through a stage of "Omg I must kill every adverb in existence" too...but it really isn't necessary.😂 All the best writing advice is GOOD...but we don't have to take it 100%. One of my biggest things to learn in editing was to show and not tell. I'm still trying to figure out how to do info dumps properly though because I DON'T WANNA but when I don't my betas always say they don't know what the world is doing. Agh. *walks into a wall* Writing is fun but also torture, right!??😂

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    1. Thank you, Cait Queen! xD YES THE ADVERB KILLING - I'm so incredibly glad I got over that.

      INFO DUMPS. Oh, I'm glad I'm not alone here. All my betas were like ... "it was a LOVELY story, but you might want to tell us about what the world looks like?". And I just blink and wonder how to kindly shove the information into everyone's brains. *walks into walls with you*.

      Fun torture - true indeed xD.

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