I finally started integrating the line edits from my printed copy of the Christmas novel to my digital document. I am about a quarter of the way through, and I am done tracking the statistics. It’s way too time-consuming, and while it would be interesting to me to have an EXACT count of the differences between unedited final draft and my edited final document, I just don’t care enough to keep tracking it…not when I have a solid representative sample from which to draw a few conclusions.
First, the numbers.
Words in unedited sample: 13,193
Words in edited sample: 13,350
Instances of direct replacements (1-1 word changes): 60 (77 words)
Instances of words removed: 42 (108 words)
Instances of words added: 24 (265 words)
As you can see, the most common change was replacing one word with another. Many of these were swapping a pronoun and a character name, but many were also replacing weak/vague verbs (such as speak or say) with more specific verbs.
Removals were more common than additions, but removals tended to be one word (such as an adverb that I decided wasn’t
really necessary) while additions tended to be entire sentences, usually of physical description to help “ground” a conversation or internal thought process.
Tracking the changes thus far was definitely worthwhile in order to give me a more clear picture of what I am really doing in a line edit. If I looked only at starting and ending word counts, the picture would be distorted – I would have a change of 1.19%. If, however, I look at the actual number of words changed rather than the net words involved, the rate of change becomes 3.41%. I am not sure I would consider a one percent difference worth my time involvement to execute and then integrate a full line edit; three and a half percent, however, definitely is.
Part of me is a little bit surprised that my rate of change was that low, considering all the pink I feel like was bled onto the pages in edits. But for every page I covered in neon, there is a page that has only one mark on it.
Interesting statistical experiment, one I will likely not repeat until I am much further along in my writing career (maybe around novel 20 it would be fun to do this again and see if I have improved my skills any, or if I am still only a 97%-right-the-first-time writer), but one I am glad I took the time to do now. I feel reassured both that line editing is worth my time to do and also that my writing is pretty solid out of the gate.
Anyone else out there OCD enough to have tracked editing stat’s like this? What was your experience?