For today’s post, we’re going to delve into the distressing topic of editing. Why distressing? Because I hate editing. But you don’t have to follow in my somewhere-between-size-9.5-and-10 footsteps! Not with this handy guide …
How to edit a novel in 10 easy steps
- Write a novel. You’d think this step is obvious. You’d be right.
- Read the novel through and take notes. We’re talking big picture notes here, not spelling mistakes. What do you like? What do you not like? Which characters are interesting and well developed? Which aren’t? Which parts of the story are exciting? Which parts bore the pants off you? Tip: If you’re not wearing pants, put some on, and then see which parts bore them off you.
- Re-write your novel. Not the whole thing, necessarily, but as much as you need to in order to fix the problems you identified in step 2. If you didn’t identify any problems in step 2, you’re an adorable little ray of sunshine and you need to get with the program because first drafts are always terrible and if you can’t find at least one thing to fix, we need to have a serious chat.
- Give your novel to a trusted friend to read. Ideally, you want to find someone who is both able to provide useful, constructive feedback, as well as able to do so in a manner that doesn’t make you want to curl up into a ball and cry for three months straight. Good luck.
- Discuss your novel with the trusted friend. Discuss it at length. Preferably for multiple hours over multiple sessions. You want to hammer out exactly what they liked and what they didn’t, what they think worked and what didn’t, and so on and so forth.
- Re-write your novel. You’re still focused on the big picture right now. Make sure you’re consistently spelling your protagonist’s name right later.
- Give your novel to a group of beta readers. Again, you want people who are readers in your genre, who know what a book in your genre is supposed to look like, and who are (hopefully) able to explain to you how your book stacks up in comparison. And if it doesn’t stack up, they should be able to tell you why.
- Re-write your novel. You know the drill.
- Focus on the details. Woo! Best part of the process! Or possibly the worst! You’re almost done now — you just need to make sure everything flows smoothly. Look for inconsistencies, logical flaws, make sure characters don’t randomly change their eye color halfway through, etc. Check your grammar, check your spelling, check your point of view, check your tense (past, present, etc.). If you know anyone who’s good at proofreading, get them in on this step, because doing it by yourself takes forever and you’ll definitely miss something.
- Run a spell check. Oh, don’t look at me like that. You’d be shocked how many books have random typos that could have easily been picked up by a simple spell check. Run it. You won’t regret it.
Now, obviously you may need to repeat some of the steps several times. I, for example, like to re-write my books five or six times before I even get to the beta reader stage. But this is the basic process I follow — and now, so can you!
What’s your editing process? Tell me!!!
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