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How To Turn a Messy Draft Into the Perfect Book

How To Turn a Messy Draft Into the Perfect Book


You probably shudder, run for your covers, or nod, smiling as you flick that red pen up into the air.

Either way, you’re in for a treat. So, let’s take out those pens and finally put them on paper.

Right before you do, comment and tell me what you’ve been writing because I would love to know!

A while ago I said I was going to do a series on Beta Readers and my process when I give my work to others.

Now, this got me thinking.

There are many parts that are hard when making a book.

First of all, starting a book is wicked hard, and finishing a book can be just if not harder.

Sadly, I can’t give you the magic formula to finish your book. Blood, sweat, and tears are always involved. But, I can give you the encouragement to keep going.

Yet, for those who have finished their work…. what next?

I’m so excited for this series because it is seriously a love-hate relationship. We’re going to go over something not often talked about and when it is, it can be pretty confusing.

It All Comes Down to the Red Pen

Now, I have probably looked at every editing blog under the sun. When I was about to finish my latest WIP, I was scrambling because I knew that it was a MESS. And when I say ‘mess’, I don’t mean something I could tidy up in a few weeks before it’s off to the press. I mean, it was like someone just came through, throwing all the words they wanted around, trying to make something resemble a story.

Maybe, the word mess is an understatement. *winks*

As most of you know, I’m a fast writer, so I’m pounding at 6,000/7,000 words a day. Out of those 6,000 words, I probably keep only 1,000. *do you think I’m crazy yet?*

Maybe that’s not the most productive way but it’s how my brain works. I call my drafts: my brain dump. Because trust me, they’re not pretty.

That’s why editing can be so scary. I look at my work and all that MESS and think how can good come out of this? Should I just hit the ol’ delete button and try again?


I was reminded of this and it really encouraged my heart.

God comes to us. In our mess and He makes something beautiful, and all the glory goes to Him.

Think about it. He helps us go through our lives, almost in an editing fashion taking away the sin patterns in our life.

The truth is editing doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be fun. That’s what’s so beautiful about writing. You can put your messy words on a page with no shame because you can come back and make them something wonderful.


Here is my process. Like always, salt to taste, and thanks for coming along with me on this journey!!!


FRIEND! You finished a book! I mean, that’s crazy cool! How many people can say they’ve finished a book? You finally have something to show for all those crazy hours staring at a computer…

Also, what do you do after you’ve done something crazy hard and awesome?

You celebrate! Treat yourself to some ice cream! Tell your family and friends! Thank the Lord that you’re alive! Come out of the writer’s hermit cave and be with friends! Actually, clean your room. Might help.

2. Take A Break

Now, almost every author I’ve read on editing says this. It might sound crazy. I mean, it did to me. Take a break? I said, “I just finished this! I’m in the mood! I might be exhausted but editing sounds better than just… sitting around!”


I made the mistake of typing the end and then going straight up to chapter one, page one, first sentence.

That didn’t work. Writer, please don’t do this!

I was so burnt out that any editing I did was destructive. Also, I was blinded.

My mind was full of this book. I had dreams about this book! I randomly smiled because I remembered something a character did or said. 9/10 out of ten when my mom asked me what I was thinking about, guess what it was? The Book.

That wasn’t healthy. I clearly needed a break.

Now, when I was researching how long people say you should wait, there are so many different answers. Some people said two weeks, some people said two months, some people said a year!

I was a little bit overwhelmed. But, after looking at all the options, I realized I had to take the break that I needed with this book. I definitely didn’t take a year off but a few weeks did the trick for me. I could never forget my book but I was able to come back with a fresh eye.

So, what you need to do, is pray about it. Ask God how long he thinks you should take a break. Examine yourself. Are you so connected to this book that it will take longer to rip yourself from it?

Do you know the phrase, “kill your darlings”? It means that with editing sometimes you have to take out the stuff that you love. Characters that you adore but are just overkill. Setting details that everyone will skim. Plot ideas that just don’t make sense.

It can be really hard to take these things out and would be even harder if you’re literally attached to your words. So, take a break. Give yourself some space. Celebrate my friend!

3. Make a plan

Another idea that saved my editing journey!

When I came to my draft earlier, I was scattered. I tried to edit the first chapter and it clearly did not go so well. I was tackling the setting, and character development, along with all the grammar issues ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It made a mess of my already messy chapter.

I had to have a plan.

This is why I’m giving you my plan. You can’t tackle everything at once. I go through the draft doing different TYPES of editing.

Now. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to go into detail about these edits but here is the cliff-notes version as we wrap up.

The Steps

  1. First step: Re-Focus. Remember why you wrote this book, your themes, and your character’s fears, misbeliefs, and misconceptions. Orient yourself with the main points. You’ll need this in the hard parts of editing. The purpose, the meaning, cling to these things! You didn’t write this for it to sit unused!
  2. The Read-Through. (Yes, the read-through. It needs to be done. I actually like this part even though I’m horrified about what I might find. First, you have to prepare yourself. Yes, this is going to be a mess but I wrote this. This is the no-judgment read. Read through it and ENJOY it. Laugh, cringe, and hide under your pillows. Do whatever you need to get THROUGH.
  3. Developmental Editing ( I’ll be going into this in full detail later and I’m so excited. I use notecards, pens, and brainstorming. It’s probably my favorite thing to do. I answer questions like: Am I following my story structure? Where does it go off? What needs to be completely changed? More later!)
  4. One-Edits (What I mean by this, is I go through and only edit certain parts. Are the character developments strong? Is the setting clear and consistent? Would a romance make sense and would it grow the characters?)
  5. Grammar Edit (Ah ha, my least favorite edit. I can say with no shame, I’m not a grammar person. Alas, it must be done. This is where you take out that red pen. I usually like to print out all of my drafts for this one so I can physically hold it. Besides, it’s more fun that way. You can use highlighters! *can you tell I love office supplies*)
  6. The Betas (Now, this can really be put in between any edit you want. This is up to you. Some people share right when it’s written. Others share it after everything. I usually just let my sister read it right after I wrote it and then my Critique Partners go over it later. Betas are the best and I have some of the greatest ones, so I can’t wait to talk about what I do later!)
  7. The Final Read-Through (This one will also come but I sadly can’t tell you when. It’s usually when you can’t do any more for this book. That’s when you know you’re done. When if you tried to edit it, you would only make it worse. It also comes down to what you’re planning on doing with this book. Self-publishment? Traditionally-Publish? Print it off and just share it with friends? This is something we’ll talk about later in the year.)
  8. Celebrate… again! (You just edited a book. That’s crazy.)


So here is an overview of what I do when editing a book. I can’t wait to go through each one and give you a more detailed look.

It’s so fun to be back and I hope to see you around! Comment what your editing plan is! I really would love to hear about it!

See ya around!

Eden 😉

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