As writers, we all know it, drawing up a draft of a story is the first and shortest part of the journey. Then begins the real work – editing. This process differs from one writer to another. Here is a list of ways on how to edit a short story. You do not necessarily have to follow all of these steps.
How to Edit a Short Story
While some steps are required, find out which ones work best for you.
1. Take Some Time Away From Your Story
When you write a story, your mind inevitably revolves around its plot. So freshen up a little. Take some time away – a couple of days to a few weeks is a good break.
Remember, the purpose of taking time away is to freshen your point of view. Without this gap, you may fail to see the story from other perspectives. When you look from more aspects, there is a good chance you can improvise the plot while editing. But without a timeout, you can also end up editing the parts that are perfectly fine.
Two days or two weeks, how much time you take depends on you. Take enough time away and make sure your short story isn’t spinning in your mind every now and then.
2. Make a Hard Copy
If your short story is handwritten, great! If it isn’t, get a print of your story. This eases your editing work. However, making a hard copy is not necessary. It also depends on how long your short story is. For a microfiction, you can stick to your laptop. But for longer manuscripts, a hard copy would help. When you proceed to edit more than once with multiple drafts, this is convenient.
Not only does it make editing clearer, but you could also further pass on the print(s) to other people. There are apps that assist with distraction-free editing, features that allow you to take notes. But if you’re speaking of a novella’s length story, or simply wish to get it done the classic way, get yourself a hard copy instead.
3. Edit Your Story
Start editing! Note that you begin this after taking some distance from the story.
While some writers go for editing the big chunks of the story such as the character’s development right away, others begin with simple proofreading. You can start either way. However, I’d recommend proofreading first. This starts with making sure all your characters and scenes stay intact for the whole story.
For example: In the first paragraph, you mention John has a red shirt on. In another story scene, you mistakenly write John took off his blue shirt.
And then there are the rest of the smaller edits such as weeding out fillers, grammatical errors, passive voice, and even spelling mistakes. If you’re editing on your computer, Grammarly can help you with these simple errors. It doesn’t do all the editing work for you. But it’s a layer you can take advantage of – after all, you can use it for free.
4. Focus On Plot and Character Development
You have all the small edits done. Technically you have your story ready. But what’s the point if it can’t make an impression on its reader? The purpose of a short story is to deliver a message in its given short length. This is why it is very important to make every word count.
Outlining a short story is something you do before you begin writing. But it is essential to look into your plot, ending, and character development after you finish writing. There are times when you find room to improvise your plot which can turn out better than the original idea.
Speaking of character development, the protagonist of your story is what your readers focus on. So keep an eye on the protagonist from every aspect. This is how a short story character generally develops:
- Everything is fine until something out of the blue happens.
- The protagonist faces the problem and acts accordingly.
- Events change the perspective or lives of the character(s) in the story.
Keep this simple progression in mind while you edit.
5. Take Care of the Story Ending
With the short story structured well, you can make an ending that takes your readers’ breath away. If not so, put a smile on their faces. The aim of the story is to make sure they say it’s worth the time. And how you end your story matters the most. You could make a mediocre storyline sound fabulous with a great ending.
Read your story draft and see if its ending can make a strong impression on you. If it doesn’t make good delivery, take out those last two sentences and see how you can make it better. If it already sounds perfect, search for a spot to improvise. There is always room for it. It all depends on how you look at it.
Better yet, create your unique ending. People love something new as long as it goes in sync with the rest of the story and makes sense.
6. Rewrite Your New Draft
You have all those parts that need editing figured out, so go for rewriting! Remember, your first draft was a quick sketch. Now you have everything you need – the outline, specified characters, the plot, the ending, and the edits. All you need to do is fabricate all of it together.
When you’re doing this, keep an eye on each paragraph you write. You may have omitted all the fillers, but lookout for something that doesn’t serve a purpose. Give a reason for every paragraph to exist.
Also, keep track of consistency. The short story you scribbled down as your initial draft does not have to be in the exact order as you first wrote. See if you can move the paragraphs around, the story flow might just get better! However, don’t overdo it – don’t end up confusing the reader.
If you’re still reading, I take it you’re very much into writing these stories. Well, I’m happy for you :) If you’re looking forward to specializing further with short stories, take up a course on Udemy, there are some pretty good ones out there.
Here is one I found to be at a reasonable price: Writing Short Stories: The Essential Guide. If you find a discount on the course or a great deal available if you’re buying it with another course (novel outlining from scratch), I’d highly recommend buying it right away – the deals are worth it!
7. Repeat the Process
This is optional. Sometimes the first round of editing is sufficient. However, if there is something missing in the story that you didn’t realize before, or you simply feel the first edit isn’t sufficient, go for the next round. This is normal. It is okay to edit twice or thrice. Some picky writers would even want to brush up 4 to 5 times before publishing it.
Between me and you, I’d say writing a short story is easier than editing it. It hardly takes an hour to pen a story’s initial draft, but it takes forever to go through its editing. But as tiresome as it seems, editing plays an important role. Give it all you’ve got to turn it into your masterpiece.
No popular story out there stands where it stands without its share of editing.
While this process is important, one thing you shouldn’t do is edit while you write your short story.
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