Once upon a time, there was a self-publishing podcast from which sprung a Facebook group, which evolved into The Indiepreneur Writers Collective. Within the group, a few dedicated editors started a weekly thread sharing editing advice with the community.
Today, I’m sharing a tip from Allison Erin Wright. Allison is a freelance editor who works with fiction of all genres.
Hello, all you lovely writers and editors! This week’s editing tip pertains to something I’ve personally been struggling with recently: self-editing at the developmental stage. And since self-editing is such a popular topic in general, I figured some of you might be going through the same struggle.
When it comes to developmental editing, I’ve worked on plenty of authors’ manuscripts as a professional, and I’ve developed a process and a mindset I’m comfortable with to tackle any story that comes across my desk. But now, for the first time, I’m in the middle of attempting a developmental edit on my own work. And I’m finding that it is a completely different beast!
I just know too much, too many versions of every little detail, and for the life of me I can’t remember what I’ve left in, what I’ve taken out, and what I’ve changed. I’m also having a hard time judging the effectiveness of hooks and arcs and conflict and tension, because I can feel my personal biases working when I read through my manuscript as surely as I can feel myself breathing.
But I had a minor breakthrough last week, when I wrote a blurb for the book.
In doing so, I identified a developmental problem with the story that had been staring me in the face for months. I couldn’t see it until I forced my mind to look at it in a new format.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the same reason we do things like change the font and use text-to-speech to help with self-editing for grammar and spelling. As writers, our brains will always trick us into seeing what we want to see on the page, so the best self-editing techniques usually involve ways to trick our brains back.
Following this logic, I knew I needed to trick my brain into looking at the story in a different format, so I pushed myself to write a full synopsis for the book.
The blurb I’d written had become a tool for me to analyze the opening of my story—and the synopsis was a great tool for me to analyze the rest of it.
If you’re struggling like I was, I urge you to go write a synopsis! Even if you’re a meticulous planner and you already have a detailed outline, a synopsis is different enough that it can help you determine whether the major beats in your story are working together to create entertaining and satisfying arcs. Plus, it can help you identify any plot holes or gaps in cause and effect that you might have overlooked during planning and writing, and you’ll be able to see if anything has been lost in translation from your original plans to your current draft.
If you’re not sure how to write a synopsis, or you don’t know what a synopsis is, here’s a link to a detailed guide I found.
And I know, I know—as independent authors, we live in this truly wonderful world where none of us ever really needs to write a synopsis (since historically, their main purpose has been as a tool in querying agents and publishers). However, we are not just authors—we are our own publishers. And in that context, there is much to be gained in the honest act of trying to sell our stories to ourselves.
I hope this tip helps some of you in your self-editing pursuits! If you have any questions about writing or analyzing synopses, please ask them below. And if you’ve found any other way to trick your brain into looking at your own story objectively, please share! I would love to try out your methods for myself.