Monthly Archives: August 2016

How to edit a short story


This writing business is very much ‘in the head’. Watch a writer working furiously, and you will see him or her sitting at the desk, not moving very much at all – not much change in facial expression, even – and staring intently at screen or page. There will be occasional bursts of work on the keyboard or with the pen. That’s it.

So I take every chance I get to move my work more into the physical world. I got the chance recently when I started to edit a story that I am preparing for publication (more on that soon). Editing on-screen produced a lot of head-scratching but not much else. I somehow couldn’t get my head around where everything fitted together in the story.

Enter our old friend, paper. I printed out the story and got to work with my pen and scissors. I literally cut out the bits I didn’t want and wrote in new material by hand, old school style. Then I stapled the pages together in one long scroll to create the new draft of the story.

editing scroll

Short story editing, the old-fashioned way.

The process of editing in this way was a tangible one. It felt good to work with physical objects.

Of course, once I had done all the work I could with pen, scissors and stapler, it was back to the computer to make the changes in electronic form, too.

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