The 3 Most Important Times To Edit That Most Writers Forget

Dean Koontz edits each page of his bestselling books 20 times (at least) until they gleam wetly in perfection. 

Stephen King takes (at least) three passes over his manuscripts before publication. 


Because readers will forgive almost anything except poor editing. 

Hear me straight: readers are rarely looking for perfection. However, even an occasional grammar goof is enough to distract and distance a reader from your story. 

“Only edit the pages you want published.”

– Christopher Kokoski 

Which is why it’s so surprising how many writers fail to edit for the three most critical reasons. 

The 3 Most Important Times To Edit That Most Writers Forget

1) Edit for Pure Pleasure 

Focus your first pass over your manuscript on fun, on what lights your fire, on enhancing anything and everything that brings a big, goofy writer grin to your face.

This is harder than it sounds. 

Why? Because it means filtering out all care for readers. This is about you. 

What makes you happy? 

What do you like or don’t like? 

What is fun?

How can you have MORE fun? 

If you could write your PERFECT book just for you, what would you add, change or take out? 

2) Edit to Add Value 

Ah, now back to your dear readers. Your second pass is all about them. What makes them smile? This pass is about enhancing value. 

If you are writing fiction: 

What genre tropes do readers LOVE?

What tropes do readers hate?

How can you amplify the genre’s main emotion? (Fear for horror, uncertainty for mystery, excitement for thrillers, etc)

How can you give readers more of what they expect? 

How can you give readers more than they expect? 

If you are writing Nonfiction: 

How can you be more specific? 

What’s another example? 

How can you do any of the steps for readers?

Can you add a chart, list, summary, worksheet, Cheatsheet, art, video demonstration, etc?

How can you be even more helpful? 

3) Edit to Silence Critics 

The third and perhaps final pass is about a subsection of your readers – aka, critics, those loathesome mythological creatures that haunt your literary nightmares.

Why care about critics? 

  • Everyone has them!
  • They write reviews 
  • They can make your book better

All three reasons matter but let’s focus on the last one. 

How does editing to silence critics make you and your book better? By thinking like a critic, you break out of the box of bias to get a subjective view of your work. 

Critics think differently. Critics find the gaps in your story or book. Critics focus on what’s missing. 

What is wrong with your book?

What is missing?

What can be challenged? 

What questions will critics have?

What will make critics angry?


Let’s recap. The three most critical “times” or reasons to edit are: 

  1. Edit for Pure Pleasure 
  2. Edit to Add Value 
  3. Edit to Silence Critics 

Need a helpful reminder of these steps? Feel free to save and/or share the image below:

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