Friday, October 6, 2017

Macro and Micro Editing: What They Are and How to Use Them to Fix Your Story

Wouldn't it be awesome if we had the ability to edit our lives?

If magically awarded this power, I think we all know exactly what parts we'd like to edit. Fix that conversation, don't get that one haircut, change majors, never watch the Star Wars prequel films.

Yet, when coming face to face with our manuscripts, most of us don't know exactly how to edit. We don't know which parts to delete, which scenes to move where, or, on a more minute level, how to punctuate dialogue, correct paragraph structures, or ensure good grammar.

We stare at our book and wonder, "Would it save any time if I just gave up and went mad now?"

The answer is no.

It would not save time or help your publishing efforts in any way. So what are you supposed to do?

Well, there are a lot of editing methods out there. However, a lot of them boil down to a similar formula to this one:

First, Macro Edit. Next, Macro and Micro Edit. Lastly, Micro Edit.

What does that mean? I'll show you:
Macro and Micro Editing: What They Are and How to Use Them to Fix Your Story
What is Macro Editing? 

Put simply, Macro Editing is editing the overall structure of the story. It's stepping back, looking at the big picture, and then setting about to fix the parts that don't make sense. This means you're cleaning up plot holes, strengthening themes, correcting pacing, and making sure the story has an overall clean, concise, good flow.

How do I Macro Edit? 

There are a few methods, but this is a favorite of mine because it makes logical sense to me:

Step 1: Make a list of all of the important parts of the story. The inciting incident, the climax. All of the different characters arcs. The themes or messages you want to convey. The writing style. Specific subplots or twists that you feel are necessary to the story. Write them all down with little explanations next to each. Give this list a name because it will now be your new best friend throughout the rest of your editing process. From here on out I'm going to refer to this list as Batman because...well, whatever. I don't need to validate my naming choices. Clearly Batman is the best name ever.

Step 2: Read through your story. Keep Batman next to you while you read. Do you see anything in your story that isn't in line with something mentioned by Batman? This could be anything from seeing a paragraph that would be better somewhere else to noticing a character arc heading in the wrong direction. Make a note of it (either with a red pen, sticky notes, or using your word processor's commenting function). Do you see anything in your story that is in line with Batman, but could be strengthened? This might look like a weak theme or a slump in the writing style. Make a note. See something that you think should have been mentioned by Batman, but isn't? This could come in the form of an exciting subplot that needs to be foreshadowed or a POV that is more important than you originally thought. Make a note of it somewhere on Batman.

Step 3: Apply your notes. Your manuscript? Copy and paste it into a new document. Now you'll have two: The original and the one that you are about to rip to shreds. Take all of the notes you made and start using them to improve your story. It will be messy. There may be tears. That's okay. Keep going.

What is Micro Editing? 

This is when you get to fix the smaller stuff. Punctuation, typos, sentence structure, page breaks, paragraph size. All of the little, annoying things you probably didn't have time to deal with when you were just trying to get the story down.

How do I Micro Edit? 

It's not easy. Because you wrote the story and have read it so many times, you'll end up reading what you meant rather than what you actually put down. For instance, you'll read "I am on with the Force an the Force is wit me" as "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me." How do you avoid this? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Read it out loud. Preferably to somebody else. Seriously. This will help you catch a lot of errors. You'll notice typos or problems with sentence flow that you probably wouldn't have seen before.

Tip 2: Have your computer read it to you. Yeah, this will be annoying and metallic sounding. But your computer will stutter over incorrect sentence structure or spelling mistakes, which is awesome.

Tip 3: Know your weaknesses. Do you have an affinity for typos? I know I do. Do you have a habit of skipping words? Using commas incorrectly? Know what areas you fail in and keep an eye out for those hot spots when reading.

Avengers, Assemble! 

Now that you have this information, you can start assembling these editing styles into an editing process that works for you. Here's what mine looks like: 

Step 1: Macro Edit. This part is messy. Fire and brimstone. Earthquakes, volcanos! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice. 
It's bad. But that's okay. Because I get to move onto step 2: 

Step 2: Don't panic. Seriously. 

Step 3: Macro and Micro Edit. That's right. More Macro Editing. Why? Because, chances are, in cleaning up plot holes and themes and characters, I've created a few other holes. So now I get to go back and catch those. Thankfully, there are less, so I can also do a bit of micro editing along the way. Also, note that this round of Macro Editing is slightly different. I'm stilling listening to Batman, but I'm also editing with a very clear question: Is this entertaining and does it move the plot forward? If the answer is no, it has be reworked or slaughtered. 

Step 4: Micro Edit and Macro Edit. No, this is not the same as Step 3. My main focus is now on micro editing, but I also keep an eye out for any pesky macro issues that may still need cleaning. 

Step 5: Micro edit. 

And that's it.

What? I didn't say it would be easy. 

Sure, your order of editing may look different than mine. That's fine as long as we all understand that my process is clearly the best process and all others are inferior. Got it? Okay. With that out of the way: Feel free to rearrange your editing process to match your personal style. However, it can and should involve some forms of macro and micro editing. 

Whichever way you choose will take a lot of time and tears and (possibly) curse words. But that's okay. You are taking an ugly first draft and you are making it better. That's awesome. Go you! 

Do you have any tips to add or questions to ask? I'd love to hear from you!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

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  1. This is really helpful! I'm working on editing right now, and I'm using a method similar to this. I don't know if it's the same one, because I haven't really analyzed my method and put labels on it. Even though it's my second novel, it's kind of my first time going through the whole editing process with a distinct first draft to work on.

  2. SO HELPFUL! Thank you. I am working on a second draft currently and it's slowly killing me inside but your tips definitely are an asset!

  3. Hi Hannah. Love the post! You're sense of humor is always so refreshing. :)
    I have a kind of off topic request. Would it be okay if I nominated you for the Liebster Award? It is a kind of promotional thing for blogs.

    Thanks for sharing your post and listening to my silly question.
    God bless, Lindsi

  4. Thank you for the post! I've been editing my book for years (not an exaggeration- I'm a slow worker) and am still trying to figure out the best way to go about it. I've finally come up with my own version of Batman (I'll call him Robin, because he's like a junior Batman) and it's helping me tremendously.

    Besides Robin, one thing that really helps me with micro editing is pulling up my two drafts side by side and directly retyping the original to the new. No copy/paste allowed. It's a good way to catch typos and weird wording when you're forced to type EVERYTHING- no one wants to retype a bad sentence. Again, thank you for the post! It's a great reminder to get back to work.

  5. I'm on my second draft doing mostly Macro Editing. So far it's awkward, making me cry, and wanting to hide my manuscript away from my eyes. :D
    I hope to have it critiqued some time when I'm done.

  6. Very helpful!
    I find myself inadvertently skimming when doing micro edits. To combat this, I read paragraphs in backwards order or use a difficult font that I have to concentrate on.

  7. Nice article great post comment information thanks for sharing



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