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Arts & Entertainment

Editing and Revising

David Baldacci

Lesson time 11:14 min

David shares his approach to editing and revising his novels, and why he enjoys the process.

David Baldacci
Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
In his MasterClass, bestselling thriller author David Baldacci teaches you how he fuses mystery and suspense to create pulse-pounding action.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Editing process is something I really love and enjoy. I do it in a twofold sort of step. I like to edit all the way through the manuscript, from the first chapter all the way through. I continually go back to it. I'm writing. I go back to previous chapters, particularly the first few chapters. I revise, I revise, I revise. Through the time I've finished a manuscript, I've probably edited this thing maybe a dozen times. Then comes the big-- the big board. And that's when I print everything out; I take it to my editing desk; I plop 500 pages down; I pull up my pens, red and blue pens; and I just bloody the page. Because this is where you turn the-- a manuscript into an actual novel. I know that a lot of stuff I put into the first draft is not going to stay in. I know I'm going to move things around. Scenes are going to be cut, other scenes are going to be added. And I'm going to develop characters a little bit more. Action scenes may be passed down or maybe even embellished a little bit. So looking at my drafts, you'll see a lot of stuff just crossed out. And I call it like, oh, this is a preachy moment. This is-- I got on my soapbox. I just wanted to say it. I had to write it. I knew it wasn't going to end up in the book. And you'll see, you know-- when I show you some pages, you'll see this big box with an x through it. That's preachy time, you know? Or soapbox time. Get rid of that. Or I'll just look at passages and I'll-- I'll realize that, you know, I don't need to have this intermittent passage in order to get to where I want to go in this chapter, so I just cut it out or reduce it in size. You will see in some of the pages that I've added a lot of material. Those were choices that I will make, and that you will make as well as you go through that you might have missed something going forward or you had an idea about the character that you wanted to embellish or enlarge. And the way you do that, you just have to add new material. But by and large, you're not going to have an enormous amount of additions to the manuscript. Certainly at the first draft stage, and certainly not at the copy edited stage. It's going to be more tightening and more cutting out. This is where it all comes together. This is my first time and first moment where I can sit down and I see the pages and I go through it in my mind from A all the way to Z, the entire story. I like to do it uninterrupted. So I have everything in my mind, all the million pieces juggling in the air, so I can see them and I know what to do with them. And this is my moment. This is my sweet spot. This is why I work hard to get the manuscript to this point, where I can put it down on that desk and just tear it apart. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think when you're editing a novel, everything is fair game. And I've done novels where a lot of it was focused on the editing process, it was focusing on the plot, and I had very little to do as far as deepening the c...

Captivate your readers

David Baldacci has captivated readers across the world with gripping, suspense-fueled thrillers. Now the New York Times–bestselling author of 38 novels shares his techniques for crafting authentic characters, developing research-based plots, and navigating the world of publishing. Learn how to write a novel with red herrings, clues, and plot twists that will keep your readers turning the pages.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I can't believe the detailed instruction from this course. FINALLY an author who will divulge publishing secrets!!! I love Balducci's clear delivery. I didn't think I'd learn so much. Thank you!! AW

A great class. I write fantasy but I'm already using some of David's ideas to add suspense to my stories.

This was a wonderful class and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks he/she can write a novel. David's journey is our journey. Filled with useful practical information as well as encouragement for anyone who feels this calling to write. Loved it.

I really like how David talks about everything. I would love to be a really great writer like him, I am just beginning, but this video has got me thinking of good ideas to write. So, Thank you very much.


Sharice H.

This teacher's classes are credible through effective explanation in guiding writers who are serious in the complete fulfillment of their daily goals, which the ground work for must be inwardly conquered in order to see any effective completion of tasks finalized outwardly on paper. I can not recommend this teacher nor commend Materclass enough for effective qualitative content which authentically is now raising up what I see as effective future Masterclass teachers. This is a writing teacher effectively teaching mastery over ones own process. Now, this is a true Masterclass. I also have to add from previous lessons taken with this teacher how his authenticity even for someone writing a non-fiction book like myself is helping me into completion of my own work. This teacher is qualified to teach both non-fiction and fiction writers. He has simply through sharing his own everyday seemingly menial real life obstables integrally acknowledged and thusfar overcome those daily obstacles we all go through. Many teachers sensationalize the diligent due process and therefore have not been able to effectively get more writers to the completion of their tasks. Which is the point. I would not be surprised if this teacher is the reason why we will now see more writers actualized into being published. This kind of content is what I was looking for when I signed up to Masterclass because he is all about the inward correction of the process which is proving on a daily basis to be beneficial to my own completed work, regardless of the genre. He is just a substantially effective teacher, regardless of the writing genre.


Great trying to edit my screenplay at the moment so helped reinforce that what I am doing is correct, thanks and to keep at it.

Jason S.

This lesson was so great! I'm in the process of editing my first draft of a sequel novel. I have this overarching tendency to edit the thing to death. LOL I also have the same problem as David to be superfluous or preachy in my writing. It's a good reminder to boil it down to the basics and not allow yourself to get in the way.

Mark B.

Really strong master class full of great tips, ideas, and the tough process of getting a story out of your head and onto paper. Many thanks

Tina F.

I just noticed something about the sample edit in the workbook: the scene where Robie kills the five men in Edinburgh is in the present tense, yet the next scene is in the past tense. I'm curious. Anybody know why he switched tenses and if does this only in the Robie books? I just read Long Road to Mercy and it's fully in the past tense. And I started The Fix, and that also seems to be all in the past tense.

Tina W.

I love how he is so open with his editing process. He admits he's preachy at times. I find when reading a book or MS from someone, there are times they go off on a introspective or observation that doesn't move the story. It usually involves a change of POV Ouch. It's so hard to cut these darlings they loved to write.


I find it very encouraging that he faces the same challenges as I do. Sometimes I feel like my second novel will never be finished, but now I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not a train. ;o)