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Paul FitzSimons

As the adage so succinctly tells us, ‘Writing is Rewriting’. Any of us who have got to the end of our novel, declared ‘It’s Finished’ and then realises that  drafts 2, 3, 4 and so on were to follow, will know that so much more time and effort goes into the re-writing than writing (the first draft of) a book.

And that step that comes between the ‘Write’ and the ‘Re-write’ is, of course, the Edit. The edit is not something that is etched in stone, no-one can definitely tell us what an edit on a manuscript or script will involve – it might be a simple case of correcting the spelling, dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s, or it might be a complete overhaul on the plot, characters, pacing and dialogue and the removal of clichés (‘dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s’).

Before we brave the scary world of professional editors, or even submit to our writing group, we might want to do an edit on our novel ourselves. This would be especially true after the first draft which, if you’re anything like me, will be a barely moulded lump of clay. But even if it’s a carefully written, checked, re-checked and re-written masterpiece, a cover-to-cover self-edit would still be a good idea. offers a great guide into self-editing, including ten invaluable tips for what- and what-not-to-do.

I should state that it is advisable, at some stage in the development of your masterpiece, to employ the services of a professional editor, or at least circulate your book to a writing group or someone who knows writing (i.e. not just our mother, significant-other or priest). And, when it comes time to submit to the industry – lit agent or publishing house – or to self-publish, a professional edit should definitely be on the cards. It might cost a few quid, but will be worth it in the end.

Speaking of self-publishing, guru on the subject Catherine Ryan Howard has some posts on her website about how important it is to use a professional editor and how to self-edit your masterpiece.

The dream for all of us emerging novelists is, of course, to get published. Fingers crossed that an agent will someday look at your manuscript, decide it’s brilliant, show it to a publisher, who will also decide it’s brilliant and decide to publish it. But (sorry, I do hate to rain on any parades here) this does not signify the end of the editing process.  Between signing on the dotted line of that hallowed publishing contract and seeing the glossy cover of your published book on the shelves, the manuscript goes through the publisher’s own editorial process. Admittedly this is less in-depth and time-consuming than it used to be (most publishers want almost-ready-to-go manuscripts these days) but it still exists. In the publishing section of the website, we find out what we might expect from the publisher’s editorial process.

If you see yourself on the other side of that editing table, but are not sure how to actually go about becoming an editor, it might be worth having a look at ‘This Crazy Industry’, which goes through the processes involved in becoming a book editor. This particular editor is based in Canada but the advice is more-or-less universal.

Most of what I talk about above refers to the book-editing world but I should tip my hat also to the script-editors too (film, TV, theatre etc.). Being a script editor is similar to being a book editor, you’re looking at a lot of the same things – story, plot, pacing, character, dialogue – but there is a number of distinctive elements of script editing that are unique to that job. On the CreativeSkillSet website, we’re given a no-frills run-down of what the job of being a script editor actually involves.


“We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.” – George Wald.


The Proactive Writer’s advice on self-editing.


The Guru speaketh.

Self-publishing expert Catherine Ryan Howard on why you should employ a professional editor.


…And More On Self-editing.

As guest on Catherine’s website, self-publishing company Kazoo’s Robert Doran on how to edit the structure of your book.


The Editing Continues.

After that publishing deal is signed, there is still more editing to do.


Sitting on the other side of the table.

Jennie’s CrazyIndustry blog tells us how to become an editor.


Lights, Camera, Action.

What does a movie script editor do exactly?


About the author

(c) Paul FitzSimons

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editor.

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