The Editing Funnel

I don’t think that’s how you operate…

It’s officially October, one of the best months of the year! There are now actual pumpkins to go with your pumpkin spice latte. The world is suddenly a massive instagram filter. You can wear scarfs and sweaters again.

But, most importantly, you are 30 days away from Halloween, one of the best holidays. So, since I’m in such a scary mood–literally, I’m terrifying. Children are running from me, screaming–I am going to Halloween-ify today’s post about editing.

Okay, I’m going to vaguely link editing to Frankenstein.

Get ready.


Editing a book is like re-living the entire history of surgical advancements.

*puts on sunglasses, David Caruso style*


Stay with me on this metaphor, cause it’s about to get weird.

Early surgery was really crude–I think their motto was: “Got a problem? Amputate it!”–and everyone was just cutting off limbs left and right. But that’s kind of what you’ve got to do with a first draft. Everything’s a mess, so chop it up! Mix it around! Do the writing equivalent of some really medically unethical shit! Your Frankenstein is alive!

Next step: invent the scalpel. Invent anesthesia. Suddenly your patients are no longer getting gangrene (I guess the writing equivalent of gangrene is adverbs). Suddenly your patients are no longer dying of blood loss. There are significantly less amputations.

Final step: modern technology! Da Vinci surgery robots! Lasers! All that crazy crap! Get in there in the most minimally invasive way possible and fix what ails your patient. You are Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders, “touch nothing but the lamp!”

Okay, now I’m mixing metaphors.

But the concept kind of stands (maybe? Just me?). The editing process, from first draft to final, is like a funnel, slowly getting narrower and more precise. With a first draft you have to alter thing on a large scale, things like plot and character. Elements of your story get amputated. Character die. Things that once seemed important get thrown out with the trash. And all the while you hope your book pulls through, that it comes out better and healthier.

If your book survives the early crude surgery, then you move on to the more advanced stuff. Filtering down, now you’re no longer amputating whole scenes and characters, but delicately slicing away at paragraphs or run on sentences. You’re delicately shaving off character flaws. You are restructuring sentences (the writing equivalent of rhinoplasty).

And then, the final surgery is the most precise one, where you have laser-guided tools that let you go in and only change individual words, or the punctuation. Tiny, microscopic changes that all work together to fix your story.

So be a mad scientist in your editing. Splatter your apron with the blood of prose (I promised it’d be weird)! Then, change into your more hygienic scrubs and save your book!

And give your neighbors plenty of warning before you start screaming “IT’S ALIVE!” They will thank you.


Caution: books make take on a life of their own



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