The 10 editing commandments

I was going to bless you all with my 10 writing commandments, but as we

A Ten Commandments monument which includes the...

The Ten (Editing) Commandments


are exiting November, aka National Novel Writing Month, here are the Holy Commandments for all writers who are editing this December:

  1. I am the Creator who brought these words into a single being. I shall believe in myself and have no other soul whose beliefs I put before my own.
  2. I shall not make for myself a carved image, or any likeness of a sweet indulgence, or a false image to fool myself out of editing my creation. I shall not bow down to these distractions nor serve them. I shall honour thy Commandments and keep pushing myself through troubled times.
  3. I can take my creation’s name in vain — it probably deserves it —  but I shall seek the opinion of my critique buddies when in doubt.
  4. I shall remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy. Six days, I shall labour and do all my work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath for my non-writer-self. In it I shall do no work that is writing-related. It took me countless weeks, months, maybe years, to create the work so I shall be lazy and not slave over editing on this day.
  5. I shall honour the needs of my work for the second draft. I shall not fix up “it’s” for “its”, nor “happy” for “content”, and shall only attend to the needs of the structural edit in this draft. (Point 5. details the differences here.)
  6. I shall not murder thy creation when times are tough. I shall not tell myself my work is worthless.
  7. I shall not commit adultery. I shall not start ten other creations to fill the void of the hardships of my first piece.
  8. I shall steal. I shall read as many fiction-writing guides as possible. I shall steal all the best advice my mind reads (you can do this on my Best books page).
  9. I shall not bear false witness against my creation. I shall practice writing short stories to improve my knowledge of editing storylines. I shall practice writing descriptions to show scenes, objects and people realistically. I shall listen to real conversations to write true dialogue.
  10. I shall covet to write the story I want to write. I shall covet to write every detail and idea that I want to. I shall not “write what I know” but, rather, “write what I love”.

I’m sorry if some of my readers had to go through this religious lesson and aren’t Catholic, but this shall will be your new mantra. Print it out, Tweet it, Facebook it, share it so that every writer editing knows what values they shall should be true to.

Please leave your own “11th commandment” below. Thank you for reading! 

18 thoughts on “The 10 editing commandments

  1. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can
    figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating
    my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions?


    • I chose WordPress because it was easy to set up. “Easy” is subjective though and can be the opposite for someone else. For me there’s nothing difficult about blogging. Easy to pick up. Give it a go if you have the time.

  2. My 11th Commandment is multi-pronged. Thy shalt not write, review or edit anything while daughter is blasting One Direction from nearby PC as she writes, but does not review and edit, the 18,000-word-and-counting story she won’t let Dad read but happily emails to her friends who blindly and obediently reply with “That’s amazing!”.
    Sorry, that one’s a little specific to my current situation but I had to get that off my chest. :)
    Must log out of Twitter now… ;) Goodnight!

    • You made me laugh on the train in the morning rush hour. I think people think I’m insane…

      I love how specific you got with your commandment. Ahh, the naïveté of our youths!

      • Ah, it’s always good to see someone laughing to themselves on the train, especially if I caused it! ;) You need to be laughing when you arrive at the Elizabeth St. ticket barriers at Flinders St because your mood needs so much room to fall as you wait to get out. :)
        Digressing into irrelevance…
        Naive youth: Hopefully she’ll come round to our way of thinking before it’s too late. :)

  3. Fantastic!
    It looks like you have A LOT of good advice for writers here…I’m probably going to read as much as I can.
    Thank you kindly for sharing. :D

  4. Oh, this is all-too-true! I say the 13th Commandment should be: Thou shalt create conflict when the scene is too rosy for this early in the story.Though the scene is pretty or cute or cozy, at this time I logically need conflict, and what a better way to employ dramatic reversal than right now. It will make the ending all the more sweet.

    • Yes, be evil early on. Be Satan and let God lose his battles.

      Then start evening up the God vs Satan battles by halfway.

      And God may win by the end, if the writer chooses.

      Awesome commandment, Nicole.

  5. My own 11th Commandment? Hmmmm. You already covered most of the important ones. Maybe “I shall not become so enamored with a passage, paragraph, sentence, or even a phrase that I refuse to cut it, even though logically I know it’s in dire need of cutting. Does said passage exist to further the story, or to demonstrate the fact I’m EVER so clever? If it’s the latter, take a chainsaw to it. And quit sobbing as you do so, you freakin wuss.”

    • Why weren’t u in my brain a couple of hours ago? That’s brilliant. I’ve had to ask myself that distinction many times. And my self-questioning sounded word-for-word to what you wrote above.

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