Editing short stories: my process

I’m writing more shorts now and it’s helping me get a handle on what works for me in terms of my editing process.

First draft: I try to just write freely for my first draft, trying to immerse myself in the story as much as possible, and taking Terry Pratchett’s advice to Neil Gaiman – ‘You don’t have to know where the story ends up’.

Second draft: Going through and making sure everything makes sense, and doing a basic grammar check. Checking that dialogue is realistic – all the basics, but no major tweaks. This functions like a basic re-read to see if the story has legs.

Third draft: This is the hefty one for me. At this point I:

  • Check that the characters are likeable and have enough backstory. Who are they? Can I say more about who they are and how they came to this story? Do they have depth and are not just carbon copies?
  • In this draft I also think of my overall structure – is the start, middle and end strong? Does it have a good opening? Is there additional meaning I can add to the opening? ie ‘book ending’ a story with an end that reflects the start?
  • In this draft I also think about tone and add in or remove figurative language.

Then I pull in a couple of beta readers.

Fourth draft: Acting on feedback from the beta read, which is often little bits of consistency – clarity and logic checking. This is a good time to consider structure again after checking with beta readers to see if everything works.

Then I run past another couple more readers or a writing group.

Fifth draft: Hopefully this should be ready, and this draft is just little tweaks based on the writing group’s feedback.

Continue until you’re done, or ready to throw it against a wall. 😛

2 thoughts on “Editing short stories: my process

    1. Thank you, Neil Gaiman, lol! It was the answer at his author talk to the question ‘what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?’


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