Editing the KonMari way

Hello, Gatekeeper Press community! I’m thrilled to begin this new collaboration with Gatekeeper Press. As an author, editor, and book coach, I’ve spent years helping writers transform their raw manuscripts into polished masterpieces. I’ve been coaching several authors this month to help clean up their manuscripts before self-publishing. At the same time, I’m deep in the weeds of decluttering my own home as we downsize from a country house to a city apartment. The more I dive into Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering, the more I see the parallels between editing my possessions and editing a manuscript.

Both processes involve letting go of what no longer serves us and keeping only what truly sparks joy.

Be a Gatekeeper of Words

Editing your manuscript can feel overwhelming, especially when it means cutting scenes, characters, and ideas you love. But you don’t have to kill all your darlings. By applying Marie Kondo’s KonMari method to your writing, you can ensure that everything in your final manuscript serves a purpose and sparks joy for your readers. This approach will help streamline your story and enrich your overall narrative, building excitement for your book and keeping your readers engaged.

Build Up and then Tear Down the Scaffolding

Many manuscripts are filled with backstory, which is essential for character and plot development. Think of backstory as scaffolding: it’s necessary during the building process but should be removed once the structure is complete. Your story should stand on its own without relying on excessive explanations or unnecessary details.

This Month’s To-Do List: Pressure-Test Your Manuscript

To ensure each moment in your book contributes meaningfully to the whole, conduct a pressure test. Evaluate if each scene advances the plot, develops characters, or reinforces themes. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Write a Complete Draft: Make sure you’ve written a complete draft from beginning to end. Editing before a manuscript is complete is like rearranging the furniture in a house that hasn’t been built yet.
  2. Create an Outline: Outline your completed manuscript, breaking it down scene by scene. Note the purpose, outcome, and expectations for each scene.
  3. Evaluate Relevance: Ask yourself if each scene or topic advances the plot, deepens character understanding, reinforces themes, or evokes the intended emotional response.
  4. Cut the Clutter: Remove scenes or ideas that don’t serve a clear purpose. If it doesn’t contribute to your story’s goals, thank it for its serviceand let it go.

Repurpose Beloved Elements

Your favorite scenes or characters might not fit within your manuscript, but that doesn’t mean they should be discarded. Consider repurposing them for short stories, a sequel, podcasts, social media posts or bonus content for your book’s launch. This way, you can still share these elements with your readers without cluttering your main narrative.

Final Thoughts

Editing is about making your manuscript the best it can be without losing the elements that spark joy in your reader and make the read satisfying. By following a Marie Kondo-inspired approach, you can transform your manuscript into a polished and compelling work where every element serves your story’s goals.

For more insights, you can listen to the full podcast at The Picture Perfect Podcast, sponsored by Gatekeeper Press! Until next time, happy writing!