How to Tackle your First Pass Edits – Part Two: Management


By the time I’d finished organizing my notes for my revision, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I couldn’t wait to finally get started on the actual editing, and on the other hand, I was already exhausted.

After all, I still had a long way to go. I had the entire manuscript to still edit! Now that it was time to actually edit, I was confident my master list of revisions were going to make a great new version of my MS, but I was still worried about the editing part itself.

My main concerns about this first pass of edits were:

  • Meeting my deadline
  • Getting “burned-out” and feeling lazy towards the end
  • Missing something in the manuscript that a revision should have impacted

Here are some tips of how I addressed all these concerns through proper management of my edits:

1. Managed my time by making goals to ensure I hit my deadline


In order to avoid total burn-out and make my deadline, I found the most important thing I could do was create a schedule and do my best to stick to it. As most authors will tell you—it’s not easy. Life gets in the way and sometimes that schedule has to be readjusted to meet deadlines. If you do have to push back your deadline and it’s unavoidable, just communicate this to your editor, or critique partner, so they can adjust their schedule in turn. The worst thing you could do is to make someone wait on you without giving them a heads up. It’s unprofessional and inconsiderate, so just let them know!


With my schedule set, I attached goals to each important section I finished. For instance, most of my heavy revisions happened in the very beginning of my manuscript. So I set myself a goal to finish the first 100 pages of manuscript within two weeks. In the middle section, I gave myself of a goal of crossing out each new scene I had to add every other day. I adjusted these goals to make sense for the types of edits I was doing. Was it adding a scene? Expanding a scene? Changing something within a scene because I had change elsewhere and it affected the scene?


At the time I was addicted to this new computer game. So for every ten pages I went through I allowed myself 20 minutes of game time. Although reward systems sound a little juvenile, they work! It kept me in the chair editing until I got through my pages so I could open up my game or put on a Netflix episode.

2. Relied on CPs…and my twitter feed

I would’ve burned out (/walked out into traffic) after the first five chapters of editing if I didn’t have pillars of support to lean back on. It’s a relief to text writer friends, or tweet at my #5amwritersclub members, and update them on my progress and/or complain about my edits. Your writing community is vital to your sanity because they’ve either gone through it themselves or they’re going through it right now. They can offer support, encouragement, and simply a break from your computer screen full of mark-up.

I wouldn’t necessarily say “misery loves company” in this instance, but “editing loves company” is certainly true.

3. “Checked off” each revision on my master list of edits

There’s something therapeutic about checking off items on a to-do list. Same goes for editing. Once you’ve completed an edit, highlight the revision on your master list and use the “strike-through” format. With a line through that revision, I was able to move on to the next item and not have to waste time going back to check if I finished that revision during my next editing session.

4. Kept track of overarching revisions that affected my plot in multiple areas within my manuscript

When you do any kind of large overhaul on a manuscript you worry about not addressing all the aspects of the manuscript the revisions might affect. Hopefully, your detailed notes will help you this, but there’s always a chance you could miss something. This is the time where highlighting sections in your manuscript can be helpful so you can easily jump to sections that you need to double-check or reference.

Though I don’t use Scrivener, I’ve heard there are great tools to be able to keep track of plotlines, world-building aspects, character motivation and development, etc.

Check out Scrivener here – might be worth looking into!

5. Constantly backed up my manuscript

For the love of everything you hold dear, BACK UP YOUR MS. Say you’ve been working diligently on one scene and someone trips over your cord at Starbucks and your screen goes black. When was the last time you used “command S?” That’s one example of many nightmares, so constantly save your manuscript and back up your computer.

I was also super neurotic, so instead of just backing up my entire computer, I emailed myself the manuscript after each editing session. With the newest version safely in my inbox I could rest easy knowing that whatever happened to my laptop, I could access the manuscript on any computer.

6. Prepared the document(s) for my editor

Check with your editor to see how she wants your edits returned. Does he or she want the full manuscript with all the mark-up and comments? What about a version with no mark-up or comments? What about just comments?

It’s a small thing but depending on their process, it’s really important to them on how they receive those changes.


At last, I was done. At this point, I was ready to set my laptop on fire. Thankfully, I’d already emailed my manuscript off to my editor, so I could’ve thrown my laptop out of a moving car and it wouldn’t have mattered…except I would’ve regretted it later on.

I know every writer feels that way after editing, so it’s easy to forget just how much better your manuscript is afterwards. But it IS. It’s so much better after all that time and effort, and trust me, it’s totally, 100% WORTH IT.

So pat yourself on the pack, pour yourself a glass of wine…better yet, get a cake. CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE DONE.

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