The 7 (Flexible) Stages in My Editing Plan

What edits do you do? Do you go through your story a set number of times? Are you addressing specific issues or tackling what strikes you in the moment? Do you consider whether one issue should come before another?

Riparia at Lake Seclusion.

Riparia at Lake Seclusion, Carrdia.

As writers, we obsess about our approach to drafting, but what about our approach to editing? What’s our plan (or lack thereof)? There are editors (developmental, content, line, proof readers, etc.), but there’s much we can and should do on our own. Yet fear remains among many.

I’m trying to change all that.

Editing is where the real magic happens.

In my editing exploration I’ve uncovered a few facts:

  • Editing doesn’t have to be boring, but instead can be dynamic.
  • Editing, even for a middling English student like me, is possible, and I can do it well.
  • Editing can transform a stone into a gem. There’s a reason why writers talk about polishing their story.

Last year, I spent months gathering together my editing knowledge and developed a targeted editing plan. It’s all still evolving, but I’m close, so very close. That plan, though, is but one step.

Tremjara 2020A - Labled

©2020 CA Hawthorne

Currently, I’m going through my file, Carrdia Book Changes. It lists needed changes based on later events or tweaks to story elements like characters, plot, and worldbuilding. 

I’ve finished Book 1, which required the most attention. It took me 16 days. Each subsequent book will require less. Then, with the series’ story complete, my goal is to dive deep into targeted editing in May, providing me something to celebrate.

May is a difficult month for me and I’m always looking for ways to make the month extra special.

Shopping, anyone?

I want the best results possible, but I also don’t want to waste time. Thus having steps within a larger plan.


My typical words of caution apply all the more here. Some writers, especially new writers, often seek a system that arrives fully formed and screams do this! In other words, fill in the blank.

The system you should adopt is your own. Check multiple approaches, read advice, mix and match, and then do what works for you. I’m sharing my current steps, but, like with drafting, it’s always evolving.

Editing Stages

These are the basic steps I personally complete.

Note that this is from a series perspective and that I’ve waited to publish all the books. After going through Book 1, I’m grateful I made that decision. Too, these are MY names for each edit. They may conflict with what others use.

Content Edit. Contrary to most advice, this happens immediately after drafting when it’s fresh in my mind what drastic changes I want to make.

Revision Map. After letting the story sit (minimum 6 weeks, usually much longer) I read the story and write a revision map. It’s my guide to macro changes, additions, and subtractions.

Comprehensive Edit. After letting the story sit again (this applies between each stage), I confirm the entire story is complete and perform a deeper edit.

Consistency Edit. This mostly applies to a series. Using the Book Changes file (a series revision map constructed over time), I correct inconsistencies and tweak changes other books have prompted.

Targeted Edit. This abandons a sequential approach. I bounce chapters, scrutinizing verbs, passive voice, micro-tension, and much more. I start with the weakest chapters and work up to the strongest. I mark off elements and chapters on a chart.

Sequential Edit. This examines the novel in bigger chunks, but targets them out of order. It’s to check for story problems inadvertently caused in the last edit, yet keeps its appearance fresh. In truth, I haven’t gotten this far so I may change this.

Line Edit. This is where ProWriting Aid enters the picture.

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Here are a few other pointers…

I always try to avoid lavishing time on what I might change. Too, early in the process my stress is on macro changes, but if I see a small issue I fix it. It’s called being flexible. Altering the font, font size, font color, or background are all helpful to aid my editor brain. I also encourage reading aloud! Even better, try to do more than read in a monotone. I try to inject emotion and even do voices.

Yes, I’m a little crazy. I’m a writer, after all.

What’s inspiring is seeing how the readability increases after each step. Too, experience changes my brain and makes it easier to spot issues.

I’ll keep saying it: I intend to publish in 2024. I might not sell a book, but I’ll have reached my goal.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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