I have completed the third pass and am in a good position to bypass the fourth altogether. Only a handful of pages remain without any alterations whatsoever – literally less than ten out of more than four hundred. There is no need to stage a full scan for so few pages, so I can move straight to the next step and simply check them in both directions when I come to them. The overall word count has had another thousand or so knocked off its total as well. It now stands at 129,209. That is just over 9,100 words cut so far. Don’t worry about them. The fact that they have been cut means that they were not needed in the first place. You don’t realise these things until you start editing.
Now, we move onto the heavyweight phase and start working backwards. I won’t read the text literally backwards because that would make no sense. Instead, I start at the end of the book and work my way forwards, reading each paragraph the right way round, but in reverse order.
If this sounds bizarre, believe me, it is a valuable editing technique. The fact that everything will now be read out of context allows me to step back from the text, and reveals weaknesses that have not yet made themselves obvious to me. I will go through the Second Pass pages (marked with the yellow highlighter) first. Then I will do the Third Phass (green highlighter). As previously mentioned, the few remaining pages will be done as I come to them. I will report back when this stage is finished, but it won’t be for several days. There is a lot of work in there.
Editing isn’t just cutting text, of course. It is about improving the text, so a lot of it involves substituting a word or phrase for a better one. Sometmes I need to expand on a point or even write a completely new scene. One of the pivotal passages involves a counselling scene with two characters, called Anna and Marcus. It was good in the original draft, but I rewrote it completely in editing and now it is much stronger.
The major weakness of too many independent writers is that they don’t edit their work carefully enough. Editing is every bit as important as creating the thing in the first place. It can make the difference between a mediocre book and an excellent one. Never underestimate it.