Writing Books/Editing


Hello. I've actually got a couple questions but I think they kind of tie in with one another. Hope that's okay.

My first question deals with editing a manuscript. When I write my first drafts, I do so on lined paper with a gel pen; I'm able to carry my work with me that way, plus I just love the physical action of writing. I'm currently working on a novel right now, I'm not real far into it, a couple chapters is all, but I have high hopes that I'll finish this one. And so far, it doesn't sound real good. Writing it out long hand is kind of my idea of making an outline; I try to make it as good as I can and worry about fixing it later. The thing is, I'm not exactly sure how to go about editing. I realize many people do it many ways and it is a broad question, but where do I start? Do I go through it once checking for grammar/spelling, then re-read it looking for inconsistencies, etc? I'm just not exactly sure how to do a thorough job when I get to that stage.

My second question deals with research and facts. I don't have a lot of real-world experience, being just 22. And I've lived in a small town in the middle of Michigan all my life. I have no idea what life in New York City would be like, how one hails a cab, buys an apartment, etc. A lot of this really can't be researched, either that, or I just don't know how. So how do I go about adding those little details to give my novel that truthful ring? And are these things I shouldn't worry too much about in my first draft, just do what research I can in my edits to give more detailed descriptions?

I apologize for the lengthy question, but these are a couple hurdles that always take me out of the mood to write, because I just haven't quite figured it out yet.

Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.


Hi Andrew,

I have a couple of responses to your questions.  Firstly, while I appreciate you enjoy writing by hand, in the end if you wish to submit a book it needs to be in MS Word - so keep that in mind. Secondly, the speed of writing possible by hand is far behind that which a writer can type. This is important because the creative flow of writing can slow down too much if you write by hand. Thirdly, editing on a computer is far more efficient and less time-consuming.  As a rule of thumb, most writers write for the creative flow with little attention to editing. The following day they will go through the previous day's work and do a rough edit (tidy spelling and check punctuation and flow). Then their head is in the right space to continue the creative process.  Real editing should be left to an editor with the publisher.

Research:  Here is something to cheer you up. A  friend of mine wrote a novel that was a worldwide best seller (Gorky Park). The novel is set in Moscow and yet at the time the writer had never been there. No expert could have known that from his work. Good research is so easy now. Movies, TV, the Internet - New York is just a click away!  Also read other writers who have great New York books.

I hope this helps  - and keep at it. A page a day is a novel in a year.



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Sandy McCutcheon


Author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a memoir and children's fiction.I can work with people on the process of writing, what to expect and ask for from an editor. How to work with the publisher`s marketing and publicity people. And how to survive book launches and publicity tours!


Published author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a young adult and three non-fiction titles. Visit his Moroccan blog at http://www.riadzany.blogspot.com for a look at his blogging work.

St Andrews, Helsinki University and other institutions. Adult Educator of the Year Award, Australia

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