As I promised yesterday in my post about my scumbag brain and how I don’t write down good ideas, today’s post is about two different types of editing: editing for content/cohesion, and editing for flow.
I want to talk first about how they’re different, and why editing for flow should be one of your last concerns, reserved for the final phases of producing reader-readiness.
Editing for Content and Cohesion
Editing for content and cohesion really go together. When you edit for content, you make sure your content is right. (WHAT??? Who could have seen that one coming?)
- You don’t have plot holes
- Your characters are developed and, as far as you can identify at the phase you’re at, all needed scenes are present and accounted for.
- All the background info that you can imagine your readers will need is somewhere in the work.
Editing for content is largely editing for cohesion; all cohesion means is that your work holds together as a unit. All the parts are there. They are there in the right place.
Global editing work–when you consider moving a scene around, or part of it–is editing for cohesion. Figuring out that you need to answer a certain question in this scene, and need to add information in order to do that–that’s editing for cohesion.
Realizing a paragraph is distracting and unnecessary and weakens the link between what comes before and after–that’s editing for cohesion. Cut that sucker!
Generally, I edit for cohesion at two points: before sending my novel off to beta readers, and then afterward, based upon their comments and reactions. After all, no one’s work is as cohesive as it could be before feedback.
EDITING FOR FLOW
Editing for flow is different than editing for cohesion. I have to have the cohesion first.
I need all my scenes present, and in the right order. I need my plot, characters, and back story laid out on the page where I want them. THEN I edit for flow. What does that mean?
It means I make everything read as smoothly as I can. I make sure sentences flow into the following sentences, paragraphs flow into the following paragraphs, and each chapter leads into the next in some way.
I work on transitions, which isn’t an easy thing to do. A creative, well-written transition is difficult to achieve, so many times we writers fall back on tried and true phrases that we overuse.
- The next day….
- Later on….
- Later that week…
When I have a narrator and he’s changing POV characters, I make sure the change is evident to the reader without being distracting or jarring. POV issues are largely flow issues, at least in my mind.
Think about it: when POV does something inconsistent, a reader notices, and that disrupts the flow of the text.
Editing for flow is tough. You need to make sure you don’t jolt your reader, that you establish or strongly hint at connections between passages and events your reader must view as connected, and that you vary transitions. It’s a difficult job, but we writers have to do it.
Pacing and flow are related, for sure, but I distinguish between the two. For me, pacing issues are content problems; a pacing problem comes from too much fluff or from missing downtime.
Basically, pacing issues indicate something is wrong with the extent or the arrangement of my content. I try to take care of those problems before I worry about flow.
Flow edits have to come last because they involve hooking each segment to what follows and what comes before. If you do that work too soon you’ll have to move stuff around and then establish a proper flow all over again.
Doing flow edits more times than you need to is good for experience, I guess, but not for your time management or frustration levels.
Generally, I take care of flow edits during and before proofreads. Flow edits are the minor changes I make to a pretty much completed draft that just help it “sound a little better.”
So, what are your thoughts about this? I imagine flow edits are a late-in-the-game stage for pretty much everyone. Is that the case for you?
If you enjoyed this post or found it useful, you might also want to check out the other posts in the section “On Editing.”
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