Tracking Editing

J Daniel Sawyer’s podcast The Everyday Novelist had an episode on tracking editing progress. You can find it here:

I’ve spent the last few weeks editing two novels, and so my head is very much in this space. As well, I've changed my writing process several times. That means I’ve had to rejig my expectations and accountability.

At one point, I was using cyclic editing. This meant that I edited the previous day’s work, and so the tracking became a matter of finishing the edits each day. The true tracking was in how much time I then had left to spend writing. Thus my word count was also a factor of editing.

I've stopped cyclic editing as it was slowing down my output, and instead rely on an alpha reader for that level of feedback. It helps that my first drafts are becoming cleaner—commas are still a work in progress.

My edit tracking is a combination of page tracking and stage goals. Words don’t necessarily make a lot of sense as the target of the edit may involve adding, cutting or modifying. As well, I’m now disciplined enough that I don’t need a spreadsheet to keep me honest. My page tracking is a matter of feel. Do I feel I’ve made real progress.

What sort of edits do I go through?

  1. First draft notes. I collect a list of changes to make as I write the first draft. This stops me from getting bogged down when editing. Crossing items off this list is how I track progress.

  2. First draft cleanup. I read through, correcting grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and tweaks to strengthen the story. This can be a little nebulous, as multiple passes sometimes occur. Tracked by page progress.

  3. Beta reader feedback. I go through the feedback, usually creating a list of changes I agree with, or issues that I need to account for. Again, this is a crossing items of tracking method.

  4. Editor first and second pass. I like watching the insertions, deletions and comments count being reduced in MS Word. However, I do use page tracking as my main metric.

  5. Proofing pass. This should occur in one day, or something has gone wrong earlier.

  6. Layout editing. As a self-publisher, I format my book, and that also requires a similar mindset to editing. I need to make sure the paragraphs are positioned well on the page, that I haven’t left any massive blocks of text, or ended up with orphans.

And then after all this… I need to follow a similar, if faster, process for the blurb.

Blurbs. Argh!

Save me from blurbs.

— R Max Tillsley

Robert Tillsley