Tag Archives: editing

INKSPILL – Editing By Nina Lewis


AWF Edit

This year I asked what you would like INKSPILL to support, editing was the focus.


Good editing takes your writing beyond mediocre. A challenging skill to learn and as with writing, some people are better at it than others. If you have decided to self publish, a good editor can make a real difference to your manuscript. Proofreaders are skilled but editors know when the shape or feel of something is wrong or right and that equals sales for the writer.

Not everyone is working on writing projects with editors though and it’s hard to learn how to edit your work. Many of us spend more time editing than writing, it is essential to leave time in your writing schedule for the edit. Your writing, as you probably know, needs a few days (or even weeks) to rest and marinate before the edit!



1) Finish Writing First

Now you may think this is an insane piece of advice as it breaks a natural pattern for many. Many of us edit as we go, I am doing it now. What this tip really means is keep it simple, deleting a typo or changing a few words as you get to the end of the sentence. It is natural (and good practise) to re-read as you write and you may see something you want to delete completely. Finish writing first and then go back to it. I sometimes use bold, italic or font colours to remind me where to look.

It is worth noting, I am not suggesting you attempt to write an entire novel without editing – although events like NaNoWriMo (you are not too late to sign up for 2014) encourage just that. To produce half a novel with no editing at all. A write or die approach. It is actually quite liberating, although the quality of the 50,000 words can vary.


2) Let the work rest

You should schedule time for the writing to be left as it is, with shorter pieces this may only be a few hours and with poetry I tend to write and re-write several drafts before the resting process. Saving all of them to file. Then leave it a day or two before starting the editing the process. With short stories this could be a week and novels longer.

The idea is it will allow you to see work through fresh eyes and should make the first level of editing (the slash and cull – yes you are going to be BRUTAL) a lot easier. Plus you will have strength to wield that sword now, unless like most of us, whilst your manuscript rested you carried on writing something else.


3) Slash and Cull

Become the slayer…. Costume on? Ready? Of course, a different wardrobe isn’t necessary, (although you could dress up as an editor if it makes you feel better). This first edit should be the easiest, you are looking for the big monsters.

The character that doesn’t quite fit, the chapter that is 7 pages too long, the description which needs to be tighter, plot holes, loose characterisation. You will be eager and fresh and should be able to tackle the manuscript with new ideas.

You may even enjoy this edit. I would advise with larger projects you do this chapter by chapter and even though you may have written in a different order it is paramount to edit in a linear way, chapter by chapter for chronology and continuity and also the reader experience.

As great writers have advised me – save each edit as new copy so you have the other versions to refer back to. Sometimes (especially beginner writers) can over edit and having copy saved may just keep the hair on your head!


4) Paper Wins

It is often easier to edit with a printed copy, physically reading and scribbling than to edit on the screen, even with new fangled editing programmes on the market. I know some writers who never use paper copy in this way, preferring e-readers or other tech. I find that I can spot things quicker on paper, it is how my brain was trained to read.

It can be useful to read it in its published form, which is why blogging platforms and emails often have a preview function. It is a good way to spot glaring errors including how the text will look on screen.


5) Have a PLAN!

You need an editing plan, just as you had one for writing. Section the manuscript, decide what to look for first, start with structure and content. What is known as ‘big picture’ editing. Find the chapters and paragraphs that need to be cut out, slash immediately. Find what works, have you missed whole areas of importance out? Do you need to write a whole section, chapter? Are there scenes that just don’t work, feel wrong, need a re-write?

Major cuts, rewrites and additions need to happen BEFORE you start polishing and editing sentences and changing words.


6) The bottom line is 10%!

Most of us are guilty of over-writing (this article was originally 1430 words)! We use more words than we need and our writing becomes weaker.

Do a word count and try to cut back 10%

Sounds impossible?

Look for these mistakes;

Repetition- trust your reader to get it the first time.

Un-necessary phrases, usually sentence starters such as I believe that… these can be cut and the writing will be stronger.

Despite everything we were taught at school, bin the adjectives. You needn’t use a whole string of them and if you have told us a character is shouting do we need to know how loudly?


7) Never Trust The Tech

By tech I mean our dear friend, the spellchecker. It will correct your mistakes but it is not a reader and will have no idea that when you wrote ‘she picked up the blank pen….’ you actually meant black pen. A grammar check won’t see this one either, but you can, so remember to use your eyes.

Other common mistakes our spell-check may miss are;

homophones, missing words. Sometimes your tech will have its own strange ideas about words, so make sure you are using the correct language setting and don’t just click OK to every suggestion.


8) Read Slower or from a different place

By now you will have edited this draft several times, you will know it. You will read what you think you see. It is so familiar it’s hard to spot any mistakes. Reading your manuscript out of order (providing you have numbered the pages) is a good proof-reading trick.

If reading out of order isn’t possible then remember how slowly beginner readers read. Read slowly. A good trick is to enlarge the font – you won’t see as many words on the screen or be able to scan read on.


9) Know when to LET GO!

When do you stop editing?

The time to let go is when you find yourself changing the manuscript, then changing it back again.

Most of us have ghost gremlins, even after we have submitted a piece of writing we feel ourselves filled with nagging feelings. Not feeling entirely confident until the work has been accepted.

Get used to this feeling.

Our perception of perfection may be different to the editor, market, it is something fictional, unobtainable… subjective… so let – it – go!


10) Pay

someone else to do it!


AWF circle


INKSPILL 2014 – Programme of Events




Welcome to  INKSPILL 2014, here is the programme of what’s coming up over the weekend. Remember you can follow in real time (GMT) or just dip in at your leisure.

If you are currently working on a writing project or preparing for NaNoWriMo, then gather your notes and start by giving yourself some time to write.



AM Session from 09:00

9:00 Programme of Events

9:15 Welcome  to INKSPILL – Motivational Video

9:25 Introductions – Let us know you are here – no matter when you decided to dip in!

inkspill coffee

9:50 Morning Activity – Pens at the ready

10:50 Meet Our GUEST Writers (Bio)  – William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan & Heather Wastie

11:30 An Article on EDITING

12:00 Freewrite Activity


LUNCH donuts_sweet_glaze_chocolate_nuts_45096_480x800


PM Session from 14:00

14:00 A video from a Master to get you back in the mood – Stephen King on writing – Running time 55 mins. Enjoy!

An Afternoon with William Gallagher – Guest Writer

15: 00 A Video From our Guest Writer William Gallagher

  • How to Get Rejected


  • Making Time to Write


  • Writing Doctor Who


  • What You get from Writing
 inkspill coffee
Evening Session from 20:30
20:30 SpeedWriting – How to Write an Article in under 30 minutes
21: 30 Night Write
AWF circle WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED DAY 1 – Sleep well!


AM Session from 09:00
9:00 A Video for the Morning – Write! (6 minutes – or possibly 18 – you will want to watch it over) Guaranteed to fire you up!
9: 30 A Breakfast Book Discussion
10:30 Feedback on DAY ONE
 inkspill coffee
11:00 The Journey
From 11:30 A morning with Heather Wastie
  • Guest Writer Heather Wastie shares her writing journey
  • Heather Wastie Editing a Poem
  • Heather Wastie’s Poetry: Histrionic water
  • Heather Wastie’s Poetry: Spaghetti hoops
LUNCH pancakes
PM Session from 14:00
 AWF retreat2
14:00 Motivation – a little of my story and a video
 14: 30 An Afternoon with Charlie Jordan
17:15 Preparing for NaNoWriMo – Archives
18:50 A Delve into the Archives (AWF  Online Writing Retreat 2013)
  – Including articles on Writing Short Stories, Research & Historical Fiction.
 AWF emboss
From 20:00
20:00 The Final Writing Session
21:30 Evaluation and Feedback

22:00 INKSPILL SHOP – Open 24/7 fs open

Come and buy products featured in INKSPILL or written by our 2014 Guest Writers, who have given their time and words to us all this weekend FOR FREE! Support them back if you can.

The ‘Tale’ End


29th & 30th September

After a manic week I was fully prepared to spend a few days in the slow lane… what I wasn’t prepared for was a chest infection! I have had a cold since Friday, but realised I wasn’t getting any better and after several sleepless nights hacking and coughing, I went to see the Dr. I am now on antibiotics and praying I will feel better for my brother’s wedding.

I had a long list of writing I needed to plough through on Monday, I had a productive morning writing new material and starting a new poetry notebook, I also started working on the commissioned project for our performance at Birmingham Literature Festival on the 11th October. I also started editing a collection of poems as well as mind-mapping some more ideas for this project.

I wasn’t very well and almost felt like spending the whole day in bed, I had an early night instead and a lie in on Tuesday before a trip to the doctor before work.

I had also been in conversation with Rachel Green over the Arts all Over the Place Festival and performing some poems. Last night I was asked to host the main OPENING EVENT of the festival  – of course, I said YES! It should be fun!

What an end to the month!


Poet Cloning


Seriously – poet cloning – it is a necessary experiment! I have struggled since re-launching my writing career with clashing events. It used to be two things I wanted to go to – nowadays it is double bookings and I really get a lot of negative feelings rising when I come across one.

I have missed the last two months of Stanza (and some before the last meeting I made it to back in May) due to performing at events in Birmingham. This month’s meeting was last Friday and I missed it as I was promoting Restless Bones in Birmingham. As it happens, although it is not customary for poet’s to do so, I could have gone to most of stanza, missed the last few poems and made it across the 20+ mile trip to promote the book as our set was late. I had no idea of the running order of the night or our set of 6 promoting poets before the event so couldn’t have made the decision to do both and to be honest I was mid a 4 day run of poetry events which may have turned into a run of 6 had I not fallen short on energy, so the idea of squeezing 2 events in and being barely present at either didn’t really make sense.

Next month’s Stanza was booked back in June, it is 2 days before my birthday and I have arranged to take cake! Then yesterday I discovered Word Up – which is an open mic event I regularly attend is celebrating a 2nd Birthday on the 15th AND they have Rueben Woolley, Jacqui Rowe AND Sammy Joe as headline acts AND I CAN’T GO!

Then later in the month 21st August I was already booked for a KAF Festival show and then discovered this was the evening of the Restless Bones Book Launch. Argh! There are 7 days in a week – why does everything have to fall short?


1 nb

Today is my first writing day in a while, I have been scribbling in my notebook over the past week when I was out on the road and have managed to get some material edited and completed. Mr G has taken this 1st week of the summer holidays off though, so I had to get up at 6AM to squeeze in writing time.

I was working on Monday still and yesterday had a private tutoring so today IS my 1st holiday! I am 2 hours in on a Things to Do List…. less than 1/3 through it.

After my busy poeting weekend I was sad to miss poetry events on Monday night and Tuesday but my energy levels are back to normal and I am going to the Theatre tonight, I know if I had gone to Shindig on Monday and Poetry Bites last night I would not make it through the show tonight nor would I have the energy to complete my submissions, next on the To Do list.

Mr G and I have managed to pack lots into the time we have had together so far and we do have the rest of this week to do more. Today my priority is not the garden, or the man, it is writing… there are deadlines…. I need to knuckle down.

My plan now is to go and write, submit and then come back later to update the blog on the wonders of the past couple of poetry days. It has been an EPIC weekend, truly and I cannot wait to share it with you.


Happy Writing

writing plan




A Great Night at Stanza


I missed Stanza last month, both actually and emotionally.

It was great to see everyone (or most people) tonight. I found my editing hat a bit of a tight fit – but got into it after a while.
Mark hosted another lovely night complete with party spread (home-made Victoria Sponge mmmmmmm!) and I had some help with a new poems about Starlings that I wrote this afternoon.
stanza scrabble

A great night was had by all and I look forward to working on my Starling poem next week!

The art of choosing: poetry magazine editors reveal how they sift and select | Write Out Loud


The art of choosing: poetry magazine editors reveal how they sift and select | Write Out Loud.

inspirational-speaker This is an interesting article, currently doing the rounds on social media.

It does prove how important the opening stanza is… in fact, the OPENING LINE! Bear it in mind when you proofread your next submission.

Flash Event & Other Writing


I am going to my first Flash Event tomorrow 🙂

One of the amazing things about starting a blog on WordPress is the community that exists. I have enjoyed finding the challenges over the past months and from participating I discovered Flash Fiction. At first it was a challenge condensing a whole story plan into just 100 -150 words, over time it got easier and I am looking forward to December *the end of Nanowrimo extreme writing, I will be able to write for the challenges again in just a week!

One of the Open Mic events I attended last month was Drummond 42, it was a spooky Halloween Spoken Word night and I enjoyed writing poetry to fit the genre. This month they are hosting a Flash event – aiming to have 42 Flashes performed. The word limit is 300 words, so last night I did the opposite of Editing – I Embellished.

When I originally write a short flash it usually comes out at 160+ words and then I desperately cull. I had fun padding the words back up and then editing to make sure it was still a good story.

I embellish/edited 3 stories from those that I have written this year for Rochelle’s Flash Fiction Challenge. This evening I have read them through. I am nervous as I have NEVER read anything longer than a poem at an open mic.

1 scottish poet

INKSPILL – Assisting you with Writing Projects: The Why Technique


AWF Banner

SATURDAY 26th October – DAY 2

AWF circleWe are currently focussing on Writing Historical Fiction – this is posted as an alternative for anyone who is not interested in the Historical Fiction Event – this doesn’t stop you from completing both if you choose.


Ink Well Alternative

Assisting you with your own writing projects. inkspill crit.

If you clicked this link it means that you are not interested in our first class on writing and researching Historical Fiction. The alternative is that you spend some time instead with your own writing projects.


If this project happens to be a work of fiction then you may find this Ink Well session useful.

We are looking at our creations, stories and characters. So find something you are currently writing and work through this post.




Jot the answers down in your notebook or as a blog post, don’t forget to post your link here in the comments.


Q. Ask yourself why are you writing this?

Write your answer and re-read it to gain another question from the answer.

Keep going until you reach a natural end.

Then go deeper, repeat this activity, this time the WHY question should refer to characters.

It is a good way to get to know your characters and keep your writing on the right track. It helps build a more solid picture of both what you’re writing and whom you’re writing about in your mind. Lots of this information will never see the light of day in your story. This exercise creates back story. However it is not a waste of time. It will help iron out weaknesses in your first draft.

Some writers’ use this method after they have finished their first draft to make sure they tighten up questions readers may have for characters motives, events in the plot etc.

You can also use the WHY technique to construct several different scenarios for how events pan out, this will allow you choice and you will find you don’t necessarily pick your first, often most obvious, idea.

inkspill techno

Critiquing Manuscripts


Today’s mission after work is to find time to critique 5 manuscripts before setting off to the city for our Picture Book Meeting. It will be good to see all the classmates from the course that finished last month and I can’t wait to hear advice on my manuscript. Which was practically rewritten after it’s 1st critique – I changed the whole angle of the book and the idea behind the story.
I am really glad I did because it is a much better read with a wider market appeal.

Just remember writers… a good critique is as valuable as the writing and editing time! Just be sure you pick or pay people who know what they are talking about!  9549198-vieille-machine-a-ecrire