Sunday, 31 January 2016

Editing With Susanna Bavin
Here is the third in my series of guest blogs about editing and, this week, I am particularly pleased to welcome fellow writer, Susanna Bavin. Sue lives in a beautiful part of the world, Llandudno in North Wales. As well as writing novels, she presents a thought-provoking blog each week and I'm sure many of you will have received a beautiful picture of a rose or of her beloved home town as a thank you when you leave a comment. I first 'met' Sue during NaNoWriMo 2014 when she became one of my buddies for the month. I soon realised that she was very supportive and through her encouragement, I manage to reach the 50,000 + word count. Since then, we have remained in touch and are hoping to meet up for the first time at the RNA conference in July.

A very big welcome, Sue. Over to you. 

 What sort of writer are you? Do you belong to the 'don't get it right - get it written' brigade? Oh, how I admire you if you do! The idea that you can fling down that first draft before you concentrate on the editing fills me with envy. Me - I edit as I go along. 

One of the times that I participated in NaNoWriMo, I vowed to follow the NaNo mantra and keep going regardless, so instead of pausing to change things, I just scribbled a few words on post-it notes and ploughed on... which was fine until I came to a scene that I couldn't write because it followed on from a scene that existed purely as a couple of lines on a post-it.

So I edit as I write. Which makes it sound as if, when I reach the end, I really have finished.

Not so. The editing-as-I-go isn't editing as such. It's just the way I build my story. Afterwards the real editing starts. Having gone through the process with two novels in a year, these are the ideas I'd like to share. I'd be interested to hear what you think of them.

1. Editing takes time. Don't rush it.

2. Leave a gap between finishing the writing and starting to edit. This will put some distance between you and your beloved book and allow you to see it more clearly.

3. Check your timeline. Here's a timeline howler from my recent editing. An incident happened to my main character and I chopped it in half to create a mini-cliffhanger, with another character's POV scene in between. Great... until I re-read it and realised that the middle scene took place over two days whereas my MC's incident happened all on the same day.

4. Every sentence must pay its way. If it doesn't further the plot, if it doesn't expose character, if it isn't essential, then what is it doing there? Take every opportunity to tighten up your writing.

5. If you have written a multi-viewpoint novel, is it obvious from the opening to each scene whose POV it is, without needing to see the name? Each character's 'voice' should be distinct.

6. Editing isn't done all in one go. It takes several read-throughs.

Those are my tips. What do you think? I hope you'll leave a comment and maybe meet up with me for a chat on Twitter.

Here is the link:

Thank you very much for sharing your editing tips with us, Sue. I like the way you've set them out so clearly and I shall use your advice as a checklist. I'll enjoy ticking each point off in turn. I can relate to point 3 about the timeline already and have had to make some adjustments. 

Thank you for reading. Would your list of editing tips resemble Sue's? Would you add anything to it after reading hers? Would you include any others to the list above? As Sue says, please leave a comment. Thanks! :-)

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.


  1. Jan, thank you for inviting me to appear on your blog. This series is such a good idea of yours and I was delighted to be asked to contribute. I hope other writers find my ideas useful. Thanks for your kind words about me. xx

    1. You are very welcome, Sue. I'm enjoying finding out what you all have to say. 🙂

  2. I sometimes do some editing as I go, especially if I realise I need to add in something to make the rest work, but I try to keep going forwards as much as possible until the first draft is finished.

    1. When I start writing, I usually like to read through the last part of what I've written in order for there to be consistency and flow. Any major edits have to wait until it's all written, though, so I suppose I like a combination of the two methods....unless I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo! Thanks for leaving a comment, Patsy.

    2. It sounds as if you have the perfect system, Patsy, editing as you go only when it's essential for later writing and leaving the other edits for later. I wonder if that would work for me. Reading the end of your previous day's work is a good way of getting into your writing, Jan. Thanks for your comment, Patsy.

  3. I'm going back to editing as I go, and writing by the seat of my pants rather than trying to plot, plan, write a messy draft and editing it afterwards.
    Feel like I've been trying to put a square peg in a round hole with the current manuscript.

    I'm at the stage where I'm sick and tired of it! And have honestly thought about drawing a line under it. But I won't. Tomorrow will be better.

    Really enjoyed this post, thank you Susanna, I'll be sure to nip over to your blog and I'll catch you on Twitter.
    Thank you Jan, great idea to do a series of guest posts on the editing theme.

    1. What ever you do, don't draw that line, Maria. I'm in the middle of editing, too, and am finding it hard. A number of the writers who've written the posts have edited as they go, haven't they? Perhaps there's a message there for all of us. I'm glad you enjoyed Sue's post and the series.
      Good luck with your editing. Thank you for popping boy to comment.

    2. ...popping by to comment, even!

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  5. Great post again, Jan. Interesting to hear of your experiences Susanna. I edit-as-you-go, and cannot move on until its 'right', so that when it comes to the final edit, I only have to go over it ten times instead of twenty! Yes, I still expect to have a lot to work on. My only worry is that I am still in the 'loving every minute of it' stage and I know in my heart of hearts that, when your 'sick to the back teeth' with your book, then, you probably have really wrung out your manuscript, of unnecessary words, corrected everything possible etc and your looking at something that truly is good to go. I'm not sick of it yet. That's my litmus paper. Perversely, when I write, 'I am sick', I would like you all to be popping corks and congratulating me!

    1. Thank you. It sounds as if you're doing a very thorough job of your editing. Good luck with it. Thank you for your comments.